Saturday, 30 April 2022

Idiot Anti-imperialism, The Falklands and Ukraine - Part 8 of 8

The Petty-Bourgeois Third Camp & Idiot Anti-Imperialism

When it came to Iraq, on the one hand, the Third Campists of the SWP, who had been petty-bourgeois moral opponents of imperialism, in every such struggle for decades, felt bound to support any opposition to the NATO occupation, from whatever source. Given that the only real opposition being undertaken was coming from the various jihadists, that meant directly allying themselves with the reactionary mediaevalists, against imperialism, which, in reality, meant allying themselves with an even bigger immediate enemy of the working-class than was represented by imperialism itself. Standing behind one faction of jihadists was Iran, where the regime itself was controlled by such reactionary elements, and directly the main enemy at home of the Iranian workers. That is a classic example, of the meaning of “idiot anti-imperialism”.

On the other hand, amongst those that had been my former comrades within the WSL Majority, back in 1982, a development had occurred, as they had converted from being Cannonites, to themselves being advocates of the petty-bourgeois Third Camp of Burnham and Shachtman, which was an indication of a wider petty-bourgeois degeneration of this group, which was moving rapidly to the Right, in the manner of their mentors, who had become Cold War Warriors, and supporters of the US war in Vietnam, and, in Burnham's case, political theorist of the neo-cons. Some of them became initiators of the so called Euston Manifesto group, which, like Paul Mason, today, argued that the second world war was a war of democracy against fascism that socialists should have supported, and so, as, now, advocates of “democratic imperialism”, supported NATO's invasion against the dictator Saddam. Paul Mason makes pretty much the same argument, today, for support of NATO against Russia. They had gone directly from being opponents of “idiot anti-imperialism” to being simple “pro-imperialists”, and the collapse into becoming prominent Blairite SPAD's, and other such shills went along with it.

The rest of that former WSL Majority, now residing under the name Alliance For Workers Liberty, did not make the leap so directly, but, in reality, perhaps, thereby, more dishonestly. They argued in relation to Iraq, that whilst they were not in favour of the NATO invasion and occupation, and so did not, like the EMG, argue for it, nor did they see any requirement to argue against it, as the consequence of it, the removal of Saddam, was one that socialists desired also. The dishonesty of this argument is fairly obvious. It essentially accepts the pro-imperialist argument of the social imperialists in WWII, and of the EMG that “democratic imperialism” is fighting the good fight of opposing fascism, dictatorship and so on, but unlike the EMG, it wants to wash its hands of any responsibility for the bad consequences of such actions. It is essentially Proudhonist in nature wanting to take the “good” side of phenomenon, whilst rejecting the “bad”, as though these are not inextricably linked. As such, it is also fundamentally idealist rather than materialist, and a reflection of the collapse into Burnhamite petty-bourgeois idealism and moralism.

Similarly, it argued that, having occupied Iraq, and given that, if it left, the only forces that would fill the vacuum were those of the jihadists, it was not possible to argue for those troops to leave, because that would mean arguing for a consequence that socialists did not desire, i.e. the installation of a reactionary Islamist regime. This is interesting, because in a recent online discussion on self-determination, in relation to Ukraine, one of the AWL's leading, though dim, lights, Jim Denham, argued that support for self-determination did not depend upon us liking the government concerned. However, as the above illustrates, they were, indeed, prepared to deny self-determination for Iraq, if it meant it was going to have a government of Islamists.

Indeed, they had been happy to see the self-determination of Serbia denied by NATO when it launched its war, and ripped Kosovo away from it, as they were prepared to see the self-determination of Libya denied by NATO. In fact, in the debates over Iraq, in 2003, they argued that, given what transpired in India/Pakistan on independence, they would have been prepared for its self-determination to have been further denied, by retaining the colonial presence. That was also their position in criticising the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, last year.

By contrast, in the 1980's, they had no such difficulty in demanding the defeat and withdrawal of the USSR from Afghanistan, even though the inevitable consequence was going to be its take over by jihadists, led by Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban! This is, in fact, symptomatic of the fact that, as idealists and subjectivists, their positions and arguments continually zig and zag in a series of contradictions, as they choose the arguments to fit the positions they adopt in each particular situation. As Trotsky described in relation to Burnham and Shachtman,

“In his recent polemical article against me, Burnham explained that socialism is a “moral ideal.” To be sure, this is not so very new. At the opening of the last century, morality served as the basis for the “True German Socialism” which Marx and Engels criticized at the very beginning of their activity. At the beginning of our century, the Russian Social Revolutionaries counterpoised the “moral ideal” to materialistic socialism…

The petty-bourgeois minority of the SWP split from the proletarian majority on the basis of a struggle against revolutionary Marxism. Burnham proclaimed dialectic materialism to be incompatible with his motheaten “science.” Shachtman proclaimed revolutionary Marxism to be of no moment from the standpoint of “practical tasks.””

On this last point, its interesting that the AWL, which long ago abandoned materialism and Marxism, in practice, for this idealism and moralism, looks to be setting the basis for its own formal abandonment of Marxism.

What it also reflects, is that, like their mentors Burnham and Shachtman, they have become simply apologists for US imperialism, and its allies, be it Israel, or the feudal Gulf Monarchies. What is worse, in lining themselves up behind US imperialism they have also shown that they are prepared to line up behind and act as apologists for the reactionary forces allied with it, the same kinds of reactionary forces that the SWP and other petty-bourgeois moralists lined up with on the basis of anti-imperialist struggles against the US. In Libya, in 2011, the AWL refused to oppose US and other imperialist intervention against Gaddafi, even though a large part of the ground forces involved were provided by the US allies from the feudal Gulf Monarchies. The inevitable consequence of Gaddafi's overthrow was going to be that, at best, the country fell into the hands of a clerical-fascist regime, and at worst that it became torn apart by warlordism. So, did that lead the AWL to argue as they had done in Iraq? No. Its leader Sean Matgamna wrote,

"Is the NTC led by unsavoury elements? Yes. Are Islamists involved in the revolution? Yes. But what do you expect? If you wanted to wait indefinitely for a revolution that was spontaneously socialist, in a country with no freedom of speech, no kind of independent labour movement, no civil society - you'd be waiting a long time."

The phrase “involved in the revolution” was just weasel words, because nearly all those involved were Islamists, backed by Special Forces units provided by the Gulf Monarchies. In another comment, at the time, from an AWL member, this involvement by the feudal gulf monarchies was even described as being the way that bourgeois-democracy was being introduced! In one of these discussions, Attila The Stockbroker had compared the AWL's support for the role of jihadists in Libya, to its opposition to Hamas in Palestine. The AWL's Lisa Radley responded,

"That's not a bad parallel. After all, the Islamism of Hamas doesn't stop us supporting the Palestinians, so the Islamism in some parts of the Libyan uprising shouldn't stop us supporting their overthrow of Gaddafi."

“But, of course, this is NOT a parallel. Of course, Marxists can support the Libyan masses desire for freedom, just as we can that of the Palestinians, but what is being compared here is not that, but the AWL's support for the Libyan "rebels", not the Libyan masses!!! The rebels are no more the equivalent of the Libyan masses, than is Hamas of the Palestinian masses. The whole point of a Marxist response to such situations is to make precisely that distinction, and to argue for support for the "truly revolutionary" elements as Lenin put it, as opposed to the merely reformist, bourgeois democratic, and certainly the clerical-reactionary elements! In fact, as Lenin and the Comintern made clear, it is our job to oppose these latter elements as part of developing the truly revolutionary forces, and primarily the working class forces in such situations. To the extent that we "make an alliance" with any of these other forces for a specific objective, it is purely tactical, and temporary, and does not at all remove from us the duty to continue to maintain strict separation from them, and to continue the sharpest criticism of them.

The AWL, most certainly did not do that. It has acted to promote the "rebels", as truly revolutionary forces, and to play down its reactionary nature throughout, in a way it has never done in relation to Hamas, for instance.”

And, they continued to apologise for the role of the clerical-fascists in Libya, denying their significance, as they carried out pogroms against black Libyan workers for example. They wrote,

"No-one's claiming things will be perfect now. We don't "support" the NTC. We've written (in the current Solidarity) about the battle the Libyan people now face against neo-liberal economic policies and, yes, Islamism. Things aren't so sewn up as you imply; the idea that "the flag of Al-Qaeda flies over Benghazi", as if ultra-Islamists have taken full control in Libya, is just untrue."

Was it, really?! If a struggle against neo-liberal economic policies were all that Libyan workers had needed be worried about since 2011, they would indeed, think themselves lucky, as against the reality of a descent into social chaos, warlordism, and clerical-fascist reaction! Similarly, reminiscent of Miliukov's denial of atrocities committed by the liberators from above in the Balkans, described by Trotsky, the AWL minimised the atrocities committed by imperialism in its massive bombing campaign and its month long siege against Sirte.

When the civil war in Syria got underway, again with US imperialism financing and arming the jihadists of various groups, via the gulf monarchies, the AWL pursued a similar course, until such time as the role of ISIS became impossible for them to deny. In other words, they have gone from being opponents of idiot anti-imperialism, to being deceitful supporters of imperialism, to being open proponents of imperialism, including support for the fascistic forces that line up with it. A similar alignment could be seen in relation to Kosovo and the role of the KLA. They propose independence for Tibet, which actually means a return of the landlords and clergy, as ruling class and caste. Now, in Ukraine, they have lined up behind the corrupt Ukrainian government, the Ukrainian oligarchs and their state, as well as the Nazis of the Azov Battalion, in order to support NATO against Russia.

These opponents of idiot anti-imperialism have become the worst idiot anti-imperialists of all.

Northern Soul Classics - Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) - Kim Weston


Friday, 29 April 2022

Friday Night Disco - I'll Be Doggone - Marvin Gaye


The Heritage We Renounce - Section III - Has the “Heritage” Gained From Association With Narodism? (10/12)

““Better that the peasants remain frozen in their routine, patriarchal form of life, than clear the way for capitalism in the countryside”— that, essentially, is how every Narodnik sees it. Indeed, probably not a single Narodnik would venture to deny that social-estate exclusiveness of the peasant community, with its collective responsibility and its ban on the sale of land and on the right to refuse an allotment, stands in the sharpest contradiction to contemporary economic realities, to contemporary commodity-capitalist relations and their development. To deny this contradiction is impossible, but the whole point is that the Narodniks are mortally afraid of this presentation of the question, of this contrasting of the legal status of the peasantry with economic realities and the present course of economic development. The Narodnik is stubbornly determined to believe in a non-existent non-capitalist development which is a figment of his romantic imagination, and therefore ... and therefore he is prepared to retard the present development, which is proceeding along capitalist lines.” (p 519)

Similar attitudes can be found, today, in relation to the arguments of the Lexiters, and certainly in relation to Starmer and all his reactionary, nationalist, Blue Labour Party. It is to be found in the support for the restrictions on free movement, and so on. It can be seen in the distasteful way in which large sections of the Left acted as cheerleaders for the biggest attack on workers' liberty and removal of workers' rights in 200 years, during the lockdown and lockout, their support for COVID passports, and so on. To these petty-bourgeois can be given Lenin's comment in relation to the Narodniks, where he cites Engelhardt's ironic rebuke.

“To such a Narodnik, one might retort in the words of Engelhardt: “The muzhik is stupid, he cannot manage his own affairs. If nobody looks after him, he will burn down all the forests, kill off all the birds, denude the rivers of fish, ruin the land and himself die out.” Here the Narodnik quite definitely “renounces the heritage,” becomes a reactionary.” (p 520)

It is again where the liberal bourgeois is more progressive than the petty-bourgeois statist, whose managerialism is manifest, not only in welfarism, but also in this support for police rule to protect the workers from themselves, to treat them as though they are idiots, unable to think and make decisions for themselves. It is the very antithesis of the opposition to statism expressed by Marx and Engels, of their advocacy of the self-activity and self-government of the proletariat in militant opposition to the state, as the foundation of its self-emancipation.

“Instead of arising from the revolutionary process of transformation of society, the "socialist organization of the total labour" "arises" from the "state aid" that the state gives to the producers' co-operative societies and which the state, not the workers, "calls into being". It is worthy of Lassalle's imagination that with state loans one can build a new society just as well as a new railway!..

That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois...

But the whole program, for all its democratic clang, is tainted through and through by the Lassallean sect's servile belief in the state, or, what is no better, by a democratic belief in miracles; or rather it is a compromise between these two kinds of belief in miracles, both equally remote from socialism.”

(Critique of the Gotha Programme)

Again, the way these restrictions on free movement, today, impact the workers, rather than the bourgeoisie was mirrored in the way the Narodnik proposals impacted the rural workers.

“The 'enterprising muzhik' may easily rent land on the side, open an establishment in some other village, and travel on business wherever he likes, whenever he likes. But, for the 'peasant' who lives chiefly from the sale of his labour-power, being tied to the allotment and community is an enormous restriction on his economic activity, makes it impossible for him to find a better employer, and compels him to sell his labour-power only to local purchasers, who invariably pay less and seek all sorts of ways and means of reducing him to bondage. Having surrendered to the sway of romantic dreaming and set himself the aim of maintaining and preserving the foundations despite the course of economic development, the Narodnikm without himself observing it, had slipped down this inclined plane until he found himself side by side with the agrarian, who yearns with all his heart and soul for the preservation and consolidation of the 'peasant's tie with the land'”. (p 520)

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Idiot Anti-imperialism, The Falklands and Ukraine - Part 7 of 8

The Petty-Bourgeois Third Camp

When Trotsky, in the Program of Peace, talks about the independent third camp of the proletariat, he is talking about the situation in which there is a war between two bourgeois camps, such as existed in WWI, or as exists today in relation to NATO(Ukraine)-Russia. In such wars, the position of socialists is “The Main Enemy Is At Home”, and we give no support to either camp. As Lenin and Trotsky set out, using the argument of “self-determination”, for any of the combatant nation states, in such conditions, is necessarily, just a liberal deception to justify a policy of “defence of the fatherland”, or social patriotism. Its why the Bolsheviks dropped the formulation even of support for the right of self-determination, and put in its place support for the right of free secession.

Making clear that, in the case of the small states, such as Belgium, the issue could not be addressed via wars between bourgeois states, but only via socialist revolution, Trotsky notes,

“The independence of the Belgians, Serbians, Poles, Armenians and others is regarded by us not as part of the Allied war program (as treated by Guesde, Plekhanov, Vandervelde, Henderson and others), but belongs to the program of the international proletarian struggle against imperialism.”

(The Program For Peace)

When it came to WWI, of course, the position of both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was to adopt the position of revolutionary defeatism. It is only after the February Revolution, that the Mensheviks changed their position, to one of bourgeois-defencism, a position that was supported by Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev, using arguments that are today copied by the social-patriots/social imperialists such as Paul Mason and the USC. Lenin fumed at these positions, and threatened to split the party unless this social-patriotic position was dropped. Trotsky notes,

“On the 17th of March, through friends in Stockholm, he wrote a letter filled with alarm. “Our party would disgrace itself for ever, kill itself politically, if it took part in such deceit ... I would choose an immediate split with no matter whom in our party rather than surrender to social patriotism ...” After this apparently impersonal threat – having definite people in mind however – Lenin adjures: “Kamenev must understand that a world historic responsibility rests upon him.” Kamenev is named here because it is a question of political principle. If Lenin had had a practical militant problem in mind, he would have been more likely to mention Stalin. But in just those hours Lenin was striving to communicate the intensity of his will to Petrograd across smoking Europe, Kamenev with the co-operation of Stalin was turning sharply toward social patriotism."

So, even though Lenin and Trotsky knew that backward Russia faced a similar situation as China that had been carved up by various imperialist powers, and was facing defeat at the hands of Germany, the most advanced industrial power of the time, they continued to argue a policy of revolutionary defeatism, that “The Main Enemy Is At Home”. And, of course, they were right. The policy of bourgeois defencism of the Mensheviks, and of Kerensky, led quickly to them losing support amongst the workers and peasants. The revolutionary programme of the Bolsheviks turned them from being a small minority into being the leading political force, winning majorities in the soviets in all the main industrial areas.

It enabled them to carry through the October Revolution, and create the world's first workers' state, albeit a workers state, in Lenin's words “with bureaucratic distortions”, as a consequence of the material conditions in which it was established. Now, the old formulation was no longer applicable. The main enemy is at home only when the ruling class is the bourgeoisie, and the state is a bourgeois state. Once the workers are the ruling class, and the state is a workers' state, even a bureaucratically deformed workers state, that is no longer true. The responsibility of the revolutionary proletariat is now to defend that state, in any war between it and bourgeois states.

But, for the petty-bourgeois moralists, it was precisely the superficial political regime that was significant, and not the underlying material reality of class relations, and class nature of the state. In the same way that they identified with “democratic imperialism” as against “fascist imperialism” so they set up a non-existent, perfect workers' state as the alternative to the reality of the workers' state existing in the USSR, much as the Narodniks had contrasted the reality of Russian capitalism, to the non-reality of some other, future, non-capitalist path of development, or against the fantasy of some previous golden age of the Russian peasantry. Comparing reality to some ideal fantasy will always result in the reality being rejected, and so it was for the petty-bourgeois moralists of the Third Camp led by Burnham and Shachtman.

They argued that, because the USSR did not measure up to their ideal of what a Workers' State should look like, it was not a Workers' State, not deserving of defence against imperialism. It did not take long before, that position led them not only to argue against defence of the USSR, but to argue that the “democratic” nature of western imperialism made it a lesser-evil than the dictatorship of Stalinism, and so to become open advocates for “democratic imperialism”. From there it was but a short step for Burnham to become a right-wing, neo-con warmonger, and for Shachtman to become a right-wing social democrat who supported the US invasion of Cuba and the Vietnam War.

The supporters of Burnham-Shacthman tried to claim that their petty-bourgeois Third Camp was a continuation of that Third Camp described above by Trotsky. But, those claims, typical of this trend, are founded upon bowdlerisation and the most egregious text and logic chopping. Trotsky himself certainly denied any such continuation.

“The very first “programmatic” articles of the purloined organ already reveal completely the light-mindedness and hollowness of this new anti-Marxist grouping which appears under the label of the “Third Camp.” What is this animal? There is the camp of capitalism; there is the camp of the proletariat. But is there perhaps a “third camp” – a petty-bourgeois sanctuary? In the nature of things, it is nothing else. But, as always, the petty bourgeois camouflages his “camp” with the paper flowers of rhetoric. Let us lend our ears! Here is one camp: France and England. There’s another camp: Hitler and Stalin. And a third camp: Burnham, with Shachtman. The Fourth International turns out for them to be in Hitler’s camp (Stalin made this discovery long ago). And so, a new great slogan: Muddlers and pacifists of the world, all ye suffering from the pin-pricks of fate, rally to the “third” camp!

Lockdown Care Homes Scandal

So, now what I and many others pointed out over the last two years is official.  More than 20,000 people died in care homes, as a result of the NHS sending people back into them carrying COVID, the courts have ruled.   The government has had to take the blame for this policy, because it has final responsibility, but, of course, the operational decisions were taken by an NHS bureaucracy that itself oversaw at least the same number of deaths within the NHS itself as a result of people being infected with the virus after they came into hospital with other illnesses.  And, the real culprit is the policy of lockdown itself, for which others have far more culpability than the government.

The real issue, in respect both of the deaths in care homes, and deaths in the NHS, and wider care system, is the fact that the government was pressed to impose a blanket lockdown of society rather than to focus resources on protecting that relatively small proportion of the population - at most about 20% - that was at any serious risk from the virus.  That is, those of 60, and more specifically those over 75, or who had some other underlying medical condition that compromised their immune system.

But, instead, as the moral panic expanded exponentially, a sensationalist, ratings hungry media, seeing a cornucopia of cheap headlines demanded that only the most sweeping, most dramatic measures were sufficient to deal with what was presented as an existential threat to society, even though the vast majority of society was at no risk from COVID whatsoever, and even the large majority of the 20% at risk, would not suffer serious illness, or death.  That fact was known from more or less Day One, based upon the data that came out of China, where the virus had been abroad already for months, as well as from Italy, where it had swept though its healthcare system, hitting elderly patients.

Yet, the media continued to insist that the virus was indiscriminate in who it affected, which was a blatant lie that was also promoted by opportunist opposition politicians, and by nearly all of the petty-bourgeois Left, with anyone who dared to challenge what became a totalitarian level of propaganda and social pressure, being deliberately cancelled.  As Professor Mark Woolhouse put it in his book, described by the Guardian,

"There was a distinctive moment, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, that neatly encapsulated the mistakes and confusion of Britain’s early efforts to tackle the disease, says Mark Woolhouse. At a No 10 briefing in March 2020, cabinet minister Michael Gove warned the virus did not discriminate. “Everyone is at risk,” he announced.

And nothing could be further from the truth, argues Professor Woolhouse, an expert on infectious diseases at Edinburgh University. “I am afraid Gove’s statement was simply not true,” he says. “In fact, this is a very discriminatory virus. Some people are much more at risk from it than others. People over 75 are an astonishing 10,000 times more at risk than those who are under 15.”

But, the fact is that Gove himself was, at the time, acting under immense pressure from that sensationalist media, from opportunist, opposition politicians, and from organisations like the WHO, which not only continually got it wrong, and chopped and changed their positions, but did so themselves under pressure of that moral panic, which had been whipped up on the basis of scare stories out of the Medical Industrial Complex, and predictions from the likes of Imperial College that proved as wildly inaccurate as had been their previous predictions in relation to Swine Flu back in 2009.

So, its not the government that bears the greatest responsibility for all of these tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths in care homes, the NHS and care sector, but all of those in the media, the opposition politicians, the petty-bourgeois Leftists and so on that actually wanted a blanket lockdown imposed even earlier, even more extensively, and even more harshly.  It is all those who claimed that the virus was indiscriminate, even when it was clear that it wasn't, and who again tried to cancel anyone who challenged that view, and then when it was undeniable sought to shift the argument on to other grounds such as vacuous and unsubstantiated claims about long-COVID, or, as in China now, demands for zero-COVID infections, even though there is absolutely no point of that.

By claiming that the virus was indiscriminate, so as to make the case for a society wide blanket lockdown, the focus on the need to protect the actual minority at risk was missing.  In fact, the task of effectively locking down that minority, concentrated in care homes, hospitals and in their own homes with the support of care workers, should have been the easiest to achieve of all.  That minority was already identified, and was concentrated in these locations, where simple, almost cost-free measures of common sense could have ensured that they never came in contact with the virus.

In hospitals, the measures of old, of having isolation hospitals, or wings in existing hospitals was a basic common sense measure that would have avoided tens of thousands of other patients being infected with the virus.  According to NHS data, more than 25% of the people it treated for COVID only contracted it after they had come into hospital for treatment for other illnesses.  Given that a high proportion of them would also be elderly, or otherwise at risk, a correspondingly higher proportion of them would have than become seriously ill and died from the virus.  That in itself is a scandal that ranks with all the previous scandals in the NHS such as the organ harvesting scandal, the Stafford hospital scandal, Shrewsbury hospital baby deaths scandal, the MRSA and C-Dif scandals.  It again shows that this huge, Stalinoid, state capitalist monstrosity cannot meet the needs of workers, and a democratic, worker owned and controlled alternative is required.

In fact, the hierarchic, bureaucratic nature of the NHS, and the role of the Medical-Industrial Complex made such basic almost cost-free, common sense measures impossible.  Having isolation hospitals is easier when you have a multitude of smaller local hospitals, and the task even within the individual hospital of separating given wings for such purposes is easier.  But, the NHS is based upon the building of personal empires, for which ever larger, centralised hospitals, based on multiple floors, where everyone has to pass through one area after another, made that much more difficult.  Where separate hospitals were created, it came in the form of the millions of pounds spent on Nightingale hospitals, whose actual purpose seems to have been an expensive publicity stunt.

The one at the Excel Centre in London was opened with great fanfare promising to be able to cater for around 5,000 patients, as the moral panic was in full swing, promising that mass burials and cremations were going to be required.  Not only of course, did the latter never happen, but the hospital itself never catered for more than 25 people at any one time, and only about 60 people in total.  Some of these white elephants never saw a single patient cross their doors.  This was all a huge amount of time and resources that could instead have gone into ensuring that elderly people in hospitals were isolated from any contact with the virus, as well as anyone with the virus was themselves isolated, including from elderly people in care homes.  It could have diverted resources to those care homes, ensuring proper PPE for staff, contact protocols, and so on, and the same principles could have been applied to car provided to the elderly in their own homes.

Instead, huge resources were devoted to the pointless task of locking down the whole of society, of passing ridiculous, unenforceable, illiberal laws to that effect, and in the process crucifying the economy, and so making the provision of the resources require for a targeted lockdown strategy that would have saved the lives of tens of thousands, impossible.

As again Professor Woolhouse put it,

“We did serious harm to our children and young adults who were robbed of their education, jobs and normal existence, as well as suffering damage to their future prospects, while they were left to inherit a record-breaking mountain of public debt. All this to protect the NHS from a disease that is a far, far greater threat to the elderly, frail and infirm than to the young and healthy.”

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Porn, Moralism & Hypocrisy

The latest bit of trivia to grip opportunist politicians and journalists is an accusation that a front bench Tory MP watched porn on their phone whilst in the House of Commons.  Really?  We have the potential for global conflicts to turn into WWIII, and the end of humanity, we have inflation that continues to soar as a result of years of money printing, and the idea that everything can be fixed by resort to the Magic Money Tree, along with the effects of NATO's economic war against Russia, pushing energy prices into the stratosphere, we have a huge list of drugs that are now not available as a result of Brexit and other disruptions to the supply chains resulting from lockdowns, and this is the most important thing they can focus on??

But, the moral hand-wringing is wholly hypocritical.  All news channels have made a story of it, but it was probably most hypocritical in the prudish attitude from Channel4 News, given that from its inception, Channel4 has relied on soft porn to boost its ratings.  An early example was Eurotrash, and one of the latest is Naked Attraction, a programme whose only purpose is to have members of the public put their genitals on full public display.  It would be interesting to have asked the Channel4 journalists how they feel about working for a channel where its not a question of merely watching porn as a passive activity, but of being ana active pornographer, peddling soft porn for ratings.

Moreover, the assumption is made that its only men who watch porn, and so the issue is conflated with misogyny.  In fact, all data suggests the opposite, and that at least as many women watch porn as men, and why wouldn't they?  After all, watching porn is not illegal.  And, again, the hypocrisy of Channel4 is exposed in that regard too, because, not only is it the case that women watch porn, but they also make porn too, as Chennel4 illustrated in their series - Mums Make Porn.

Watch live House of Commons coverage and you will see nearly every MP fiddling with their phones, and there is no reason why watching porn on the phone is any different to watching cat videos, or playing Candy Crush.  The issue ought to be MP's not paying full attention to proceedings, and like the majority of the population, it seems, being only separable from a screen by surgical procedure.

The data shows that at least half the adult population watch porn at some point and to one degree or another, and that is just those that actually admitted to it, meaning the real figure is much higher.  Another report shows over more than 50% of women watching porn, and 40% making their own.  Many of us who grew up in the 1950's and 60's thought that we had done away with all of this prudishness and priggishness, exemplified by Mary Whitehouse and her reactionary crew, but it seems that the reactionaries are back with a vengeance in this regard, as in others too, at least in so far as they can use it for short-term, opportunism.

The Heritage We Renounce - Section III - Has the “Heritage” Gained From Association With Narodism? (9/12)

The Narodniks idealisation of the countryside was even more at variance with the heritage, which saw it as the most glaring continuation of all the features of the previous society, and the spread of capitalism from the towns into the countryside, as the most progressive development. Again, that has echoes in the views of the “anti-imperialists”. As this led to differentiation and contradiction,

“... the Narodniks’ honeyed talk about the peasant’s “community spirit,” “artel spirit,” etc., on the one hand, and the actual division of the peasantry into a rural bourgeoisie and a rural proletariat on the other; and the more rapidly did the Narodniks, who continued to look upon things with the eyes of the peasant, change from sentimental romanticists into ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie, because in modern society the small producer changes into a commodity producer.” (p 518)

In reality, as this capitalist development proceeded, the Narodniks knew that getting rid of the relics of the past would simply speed up capitalist development.

“Better stagnation than capitalist progress—this, essentially, is every Narodnik’s attitude to the countryside, although of course not every Narodnik would venture to say so frankly and bluntly, with the same forthrightness of a Mr. V. V.” (p 519)

And, that is certainly the attitude of the “anti-imperialists”, as well as the “anti-capitalists”, of the Malthusian and catastrophists, including those who can only see in capitalist development workers being bought off, a view which is itself, inherently bourgeois and economistic, seeing class struggle only as an industrial, distributional struggle, and not a political struggle over the property question. Their view centres on the idea that Socialism is a result of some socialist government being elected, or arising from a revolution, so as to hand it down to the workers from on high. In their view that cannot happen unless the workers suffer misery, and find life intolerable. The fact that such misery invariably results in the weakness of workers, and in their demoralisation, resulting in the strengthening of reaction, does not enter their calculation. Trotsky responded to such crude views as follows,

“a prolonged crisis, although it would doubtless act to heighten the embitterment of the working masses (especially the unemployed and semi-employed), would nevertheless simultaneously tend to weaken their activity because this activity is intimately bound up with the workers’ consciousness of their irreplaceable role in production.

Prolonged unemployment following an epoch of revolutionary political assaults and retreats does not at all work in favour of the Communist Party. On the contrary the longer the crisis lasts the more it threatens to nourish anarchist moods on one wing and reformist moods on the other...In contrast, the industrial revival is bound, first of all, to raise the self-confidence of the working class, undermined by failures and by the disunity in its own ranks; it is bound to fuse the working class together in the factories and plants and heighten the desire for unanimity in militant actions.

We are already observing the beginnings of this process. The working masses feel firmer ground under their feet. They are seeking to fuse their ranks. They keenly sense the split to be an obstacle to action. They are striving not only toward a more unanimous resistance to the offensive of capital resulting from the crisis but also toward preparing a counter-offensive, based on the conditions of industrial revival. The crisis was a period of frustrated hopes and of embitterment, not infrequently impotent embitterment. The boom as it unfolds will provide an outlet in action for these feelings. This is precisely what the resolution of the Third Congress, which we defended, states.”

(Flood Tide)

Similarly, the idea of Socialism being an act of self-liberation by workers, from the bottom up, who, on the basis of the now socialised capital, which objectively is their own collective property, come to recognise the need for their collective, democratic control over it, has no part in the petty-bourgeois, managerial perspective.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Idiot Anti-imperialism, The Falklands and Ukraine - Part 6 of 8

The Third Camp of the Proletariat

In his Programme Of Peace, written in 1916, Trotsky describes these principles in relation to wars between bourgeois states, such as those taking place at the time under the generic heading of World War I. In it is synthesised these principles that a) we are not proponents of national self-determination, but of the self-determination of the working-class, b) we are in favour of the greatest possible, voluntary association of states, and so of the working-class, and the consequent demolition of borders and nation states, c) in all wars, including those for national liberation, we are partisans only of the revolutionary proletariat, organised independently in revolutionary organisations so as to fight against the forces of bourgeois-democracy, as well as for national liberation (permanent revolution), d) the main enemy is at home, e) our solution to war is not pacifism, or the victory of one camp over another, but the victory of the proletariat, and the creation of Socialism, which is the only lasting guarantee of peace.

The peace program of the bourgeoisie, and of its apologists, Trotsky says, is a program actually of war, of the victory of one camp in the conflict over another. In Ukraine currently, the NATO imperialists programme for peace is a program of war, and the defeat of Russian imperialism, by Ukraine and its NATO backers. That is also the program of the warmongers on the Left, who have become partisans of the camp of NATO imperialism, such as Paul Mason, or those involved in the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. The latter talk not about the Ukrainian working class, organised in independent revolutionary organisations, but only of “Ukraine”, or “the Ukrainian people”, as though these abstract concepts do not hide the existence of fundamental class divisions in Ukraine, and that what these abstract concepts actually mean is the Ukrainian ruling class, and its state, which is who is really fighting the war against Russia, and backed massively by the military might and economic power of NATO.

This use of abstract concepts such as “the people” is the usual method of the petty-bourgeois liberal who seeks to deny the existence of these class distinctions, in order to line the whole of society up behind the ruling class and its objectives on the basis of nationalist ideology. As Lenin put it, arguing against the petty-bourgeois moralists of the Narodniks,

“we have to conclude that a class-divided society is compatible with a non-class state, with a non-class nation, with individuals standing outside of classes.”

(Gems of Narodnik Project Mongering)

But, its quite clear that Ukraine is not a non-class state, nor nation, but is a bourgeois state and nation, which is backed by the global might of NATO imperialism, which is, and has been for more than a decade involved in a global economic and strategic conflict with China, as a growing economic and military competitor to NATO, and with Russia, which poses no real economic challenge to NATO, but which still has significant military, including nuclear arsenals. That war has been conducted via proxies, such as Iran and Syria, and contending forces within them, as well as by the usual route of trade wars. When the US and Russia, both became directly involved in the war in Syria, I pointed out that this was a qualitative change, opening the possibility of direct war between the two – WWIII. The war in Ukraine is not a war just between Russia and “poor little Ukraine”, in the way that WWI was justified by British and French imperialism as a war over “poor little Belgium”, but is a further qualitative development in that process of proxy war that is moving ever closer to all-out war between these two imperialist camps, a war that will inevitably become nuclear in short order, spelling the end of humanity.

Even the warmonger and supporter of NATO imperialism, Paul Mason, recognises this fact. He talks in his latest missive about “Western arms supplies... and (widely assumed) US intelligence and electronic warfare support.” In other words, NATO imperialism is already massively engaged on the side of Ukraine, which is being used as a punch-bag in this proxy war, to soak up Russian attacks on behalf of NATO imperialism's larger, and longer term military strategic goals. Indeed, this distinguishes the Ukraine-Russia war even from the Argentina-Britain war over the Falklands, because in that war, although again, NATO stayed out of it, everyone knew that Britain was getting satellite information from the US.

As Trotsky writes,

“What is a program of peace? From the viewpoint of the ruling classes or of the parties subservient to them, it is the totality of those demands, the realization of which must be ensured by the power of militarism. Hence, for the realization of Miliukov’s “peace program” Constantinople must be conquered by force of arms. Vandervelde’s “peace program” requires the expulsion of the Germans from Belgium as an antecedent condition. From this standpoint the peace clauses merely draw the balance sheet of what has been achieved by force of arms. In other words, the peace program is the war program.”

(The Program of Peace)

But, the working-class does not need to align with either of these two warring bourgeois camps. Our aim is not to act simply as partisans of one national bourgeoisie against another, as the liberals and social-imperialists of the USC would have us do, but is rather to be partisans of the proletariat, which forms an independent third camp hostile to both the other two.

“For the revolutionary proletariat, the peace program does not mean the demands which national militarism must fulfil, but those demands which the international proletariat intends to impose by its revolutionary struggle against militarism of all countries.”


That the war in Ukraine really amounts to a war between two imperialist camps NATO on one side, Russia/China(?) on the other, is no surprise, because what it signifies, as Trotsky wrote back in 1916, is that the concept of national self-determination, for small or weaker states is a myth, a petty-bourgeois, romantic delusion, just as much as the potential for independence of small firms in a world of monopolies. It is why the proponents of Brexit are reactionary, petty-bourgeois dreamers. Poor little Belgium, itself, of course, had been a vicious colonial power, using the most vile oppression in Africa, and yet, in the world that had emerged, was just too small to survive.

“Capitalism has transferred into the field of international relations the same methods applied by it in “regulating” the internal economic life of the nations. The path of competition is the path of systematically annihilating the small and medium-sized enterprises and of achieving the supremacy of big capital. World competition of the capitalist forces means the systematic subjection of the small, medium-sized and backward nations by the great and greatest capitalist powers... The war uncovered and accelerated this process by introducing the factor of open violence. The war destroys the last shreds of the “independence” of small states, quite apart from the military outcome of the conflict between the two basic enemy camps.”


Lenin and Trotsky, based on Lenin's theory of imperialism, saw the world being divided in the same way it had been in the 19th century, into colonial empires, and annexed countries, but the reality of what Trotsky outlines, here, is that that world was ending, and the age of the huge multinational state was emerging, which was to be seen in the development of the EU, and similar blocs across the globe. Its again what makes Brexit such a utopian and reactionary venture, which already is tearing Britain itself apart, and sees it, on the one hand economically subordinated to the EU, and politically subordinated to the US, a condition that itself cannot be sustained.

The position and fate of Ukraine, today, is comparable to that of Belgium in WWI, and as Trotsky says,

“Belgium still groans under the yoke of German militarism. This, however, is but the visible sanguinary and dramatic expression of the collapse of her independence. The “liberation” of Belgium does not at all confront the Allied governments as an independent task. Both in the further progress of the war and after its conclusion, Belgium will become but a pawn in the great game of the capitalist giants. Failing the intervention of the third power – the revolution – Belgium may as a result of the war remain in German bondage, or fall under the yoke of Great Britain, or be divided between the powerful robbers of the two coalitions.”


What's Going On In China?

Behaviour in China appears, at first sight, to be bizarre, but a closer look shows it to be fully consistent with the past, and in its own perverse way, entirely rational.

China was one of the first countries to develop a COVID19 vaccine. Its command economy was well placed to produce it on the mass scale required to roll it out fully to its population, and, indeed, not only has it done so, but it has shipped vaccines to other parts of the world. As an authoritarian state, it more than most, has been in a position to insist that all of its population, and certainly those of its population in the at risk categories, be fully vaccinated. Indeed, the figures suggest that its population has been protected against the virus, with the number of deaths and serious illness long ago dropping to near zero, and even the number of infections falling to low levels. So, why is China continuing to lock down its major cities such as Shanghai, and now potentially Beijing, insisting on a new round of widespread testing, as part of a zero-Covid strategy? Given its dire effects on its economy, it seems inexplicable. Its not.

In fact, the explanation resides specifically in the fact that the zero-COVID strategy places restrictions on Chinese economic growth. Such restriction is required by the Chinese authorities, for the same reason that restricting economic growth, in other developed economies, has been necessary since 2010, leading them to implement measures of fiscal austerity and so on. It is all about asset prices, and preventing the bursting of asset price bubbles. China is the home of many of these bubbles, and the epitome of them is the huge Evergrande bubble.

Evergrande, the world's largest real estate company, has debts of around $300 billion. Of course, its not the only company, or country, with massive debts. With central banks undertaking QE, printing money tokens used to buy up government and sovereign debt, countries were able to issue debt, rather than raising taxes, or growing their economies to produce higher revenues, and companies could do the same, using bond issues also to buy back shares, thereby inflating share prices, and so the paper wealth of share holders. All fine, and the fuel for financial bubbles until such time as reality imposes itself, as it did in 2008, and when the normal mechanisms of the real economy cause interest rates to rise, as the demand for money-capital rises faster than the supply of money-capital, at which point, asset prices start to fall, and as speculators see guaranteed annual capital gains turn into capital losses, they head for the doors, which then causes bond prices to crash, and yields on those bonds to rise sharply, which, in turn means that the debt servicing costs of governments, in particular, soar.

I say, governments in particular, because it is governments that have to cover their debt servicing costs either by further borrowing – to cover the interest, and to redeem the bonds on maturity – or by raising taxes. Companies that have issued bonds to buy back shares, do not need to issue additional bonds. The bonds they've issued usually have a fixed coupon, meaning their debt servicing cost does not rise. They can cover the interest charge out of future profits, and if required go back to issuing shares to finance debt.

As I've described before, companies that see their business growing rapidly, which is the conditions that lead to the demand for money-capital rising faster than its supply, can cover the interest payments, which remain at absolutely low levels by historical standards, easily, out of their rising profits. However, companies like Evergrande that makes its profits precisely out of rapidly rising asset prices, in its case specifically real estate prices, are in a completely different situation. In fact, its a similar situation that such companies and financial institutions found themselves in, in 2008, when a real estate bubble burst, as the first ripple in the bursting of asset price bubbles across the global economy.

Companies like Evergrande are able to borrow to finance their operations on the basis of the size of their balance sheet, and the size of that balance sheet is determined by the paper valuation of the assets of the company. That was the case with banks and other financial institutions in 2008, be it Northern Rock in Britain, or Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers in the US, or later, the many EU based banks that went down the tubes, in 2010, during the Eurozone debt crisis. When those asset valuations are decimated, as also happened in Japan in 1990, when property and other asset prices fell by as much as 90%, the creditors of these companies, stop lending and begin to call in their debts, leading to a credit crunch, and sharply rising short term interest rates. Borrowers default, and that starts off a second round effect of all those that have speculated on the risk of default also being drawn into the maelstrom, as happened with the so called monoline insurers, and sellers of Credit Default Swaps, in 2008.

The crisis facing Evergrande already saw it suffer a liquidity crisis in 2021, which, in turn, led to falls in stock markets. But, of course, China being China, the state can always come in behind any such large company to prevent default, in the same way that US, UK, and EU states came in to nationalise banks in 2008, when they were about to collapse. But, as 2008, and then 2010, showed, if the debts are big enough, all this does is to transfer the debt crisis from being one facing individual large companies, to one that becomes a sovereign debt crisis, facing the state itself. And, Evergrande is not the only large company in China facing such problems of huge debt. Its perhaps just the best known, currently. As interest rates rise, asset prices, be they those in the US, Britain, Europe, or China, will collapse, and that means a huge fall in the paper wealth of the global ruling class, the top 0.01% that owns its wealth more or less exclusively in the form of this fictitious capital.

And, herein lies the explanation for the imposition of the zero-COVID policy, of the imposition of lockdowns, testing and so on. The Chinese rulers, like the ruling class everywhere, owns its wealth in the form of fictitious capital, be it shares, bonds, or property portfolios. Historically, the ruling class owns its wealth in this form, because the assets are revenue producing, i.e. they provide an annual income in the form of interest/dividends, and rent. However, over the last 30 years, although these revenues have generally continued to rise in absolute terms, as a proportion of the price of the assets themselves, i.e. the yield on the assets, they have continually fallen. The reason for that is that, first the secular fall in interest rates that began in the 1980's, caused asset prices to rise at a faster pace, due to the process of capitalisation, and as available money-capital was recirculated back into the purchase of these assets, in search of what appeared guaranteed capital gains, rather than into the accumulation of industrial capital, so the mass of profits grew at a slower pace, even though the rate of profit remained at a high level, as a result of the sharp rise in productivity that new inventions brought in the 1980's, and into the 90's.

The global financial crisis of 2008 occurred, because, when, after 1999, a new long wave uptrend began, the processes of the previous 25 years, began to reverse. Gross output began to rise at a faster pace than net output. That meant that the demand for money-capital to finance capital accumulation grew at a faster pace than the supply of money-capital (which comes primarily from realised profits, plus any potential to mobilise unused savings), which causes interest rates to rise. Employment grew faster, with the global working class growing by 30%, in the first decade of the new century, and even without that resulting in higher wages per worker, it means a much larger quantity of wages demanding wage goods, which causes firms to need to accumulate capital to meet that demand, or else risk losing market share to their competitors, which drives even faster economic growth, accelerating the process described. Interest rates rise, asset prices fall, guaranteed large capital gains are no longer assured, and speculators rush for the exits, hence the crash.

After the global system had been stabilised, in 2009, states began to take measures to try to prevent those conditions recurring. Capitalist states, as social-democratic states, based upon large scale socialised capital, are in a highly contradictory and conflicted position, and the Chinese state is a social-democratic state. In fact, it is such par excellence, based most clearly on such large-scale socialised capital. Ultimately, the future of the state itself depends upon the growth of this large-scale socialised capital. It requires, long-term planning and regulation of the economy, to create the conditions in which the astronomical amounts of fixed capital investment can be able to produce profits over the long horizon in which it operates.

If it operated rationally, on that basis, it would seek to ensure that everything that drained surplus value, such as the payment of interest and rents, were minimised, so that profits were devoted to this accumulation of capital, including the necessary investment in national infrastructure, where required, to ensure that capital throughout the state could operate efficiently and productively. However, although this large-scale socialised capital, is the property form that determines the state's long-term future and interests, and is, objectively, the collective property of the associated producers, i.e. the workers and managers within these companies, those associated producers do not act as the owners of that capital. They do not recognise that actual position in society, as the nascent ruling class, and are prevented from doing so, by the ruling class, and its ideology, exercised via the state.

The ruling class remains the capitalist class, which has morphed from being the private monopoly owners of that industrial capital, into being merely the owners of fictitious-capital. They have become simply money-lenders, coupon clippers, who lend money to companies, and the state, in return for interest/dividends paid on shares and bonds, or else they are property owners, obtaining rents on the property. As Marx describes in Capital III, the interests of this form of capital is wholly contradictory to the interests of industrial capital. Yet, it is this parasitic excrescence that forms the ruling class, in China, as elsewhere, and which controls not only the operation of the real industrial capital, but also the state. Instead of the state operating in the interests of industrial capital, upon which its own long-term future depends, it acts in the interests of the ruling class, whose short-term interests fundamentally contradict the interests of industrial capital, and the state!

So, in 2010, states imposed fiscal austerity measures designed to slow economic growth, and capital accumulation, even though faster economic growth and capital accumulation was the obvious means by which additional surplus value could be produced, so that debts could be paid down. Its no wonder that everywhere that such austerity was imposed, debts rather than falling rose massively. Alongside the austerity, states used central banks to engage in QE, so as to use the additional money tokens to directly buy government, corporate and mortgage bonds, directly inflating their prices, setting off a new round of gambling and speculation in search of what appeared to be guaranteed capital gains – what had been termed in the earlier period The Greenspan Put – which, in turn diverted money-capital away from capital investment, and money away from consumption. The purpose was specifically to slow the pace of economic growth – including the pace of employment growth, and so of wages – and to inflate asset prices, so as to protect the paper wealth of the ruling class.

For a time, it worked. By 2014, stock markets had risen to levels above the bubble levels of 2007/8, before the crash. Bond prices had been pushed up to levels above 2008, meaning that yields fell to near zero, and, as central banks came in with even more QE, in the following years, whenever it looked like asset prices were about to fall, those yields were even sent below zero. At its height the total amount of bonds across the globe with negative yields rose to around $18 trillion. But, an indication of what is really going on in China, is shown by the fact that that number is now close to zero, as global bond prices have fallen at the fastest pace on record, with a corresponding rapid increase in yields. In particular, yields on shorter dated bonds have risen most leading to a flattening of the yield curve, and even in parts of the yield curve a yield inversion, with yields on shorter dated bonds exceeding those on longer dated bonds. Two year bonds in Germany, that were negative for years have turned decisively positive, and even the Japanese 2 year bond yield, negative for even longer, and with massive Bank of Japan QE, turned positive for a while.

The cause is again quite easy to discern. In 2018, global economic growth was again on the rise. Governments, across the globe, could no longer justify continued high levels of fiscal austerity, as budget deficits had fallen. Higher economic growth, and a resumption in the growth of total wages, meant firms again needed to accumulate capital to meet rising demand, or lose market share to competitors. Interest rates rose, asset prices fell. Stock markets fell by 20%. Then Trump spiked global growth by embarking on his global trade wars against China and the EU.

The resulting slower growth, gave justification for the Federal Reserve to again jump in with more QE, and to reduce its policy rates. Asset prices rose again, but by 2020, this effect was also wearing off. Higher growth again began to push through, and in response to Trump's trade wars, and Brexit, trade began to simply flow through different channels. Then, economies across the globe were closed down under cover of the pandemic. Economic growth was thrown into reverse, central banks, again, were able to step in to print money tokens on an epic scale, to buy up worthless paper assets, whose prices now soared to even higher levels than before, even as the economies, and profits upon which those prices are ultimately based, was being put into the deep freeze. That is totemic of the deep contradiction upon which the capitalist state is now based.

Across the globe, states have continued to try to impose restrictions on economic growth by the imposition of ludicrous lockdowns, which never could have been a rational response to a virus that is highly specific in its victims, being only that 20% of the population over 60 (and even more specifically over 70) or with other underlying medical conditions. But, with widespread vaccination now in place, providing immunity for around 95% of populations, old and young alike, the risk of death from COVID dropped to near zero, for the vaccinated, and for the unvaccinated, it remains only those in the 20% that are at risk. Governments continued to try to restrain economies by keeping them locked down, even with the risk abolished as a result of such immunity, and even, now, in Britain and elsewhere, long after all such risk has been removed, restrictions of all sorts remain in place that act to reduce economic activity.

But, increasingly, those restrictions could not restrain the natural tendency for economic growth to resume, and all the more so, given that the two year period of lockdown, in conditions where governments now printed money tokens to hand to individuals and businesses as income replacement, enabled them to engage in a splurge of spending once restrictions were lifted. Having seen that demand surge into economies, states have repeatedly tried to hold it back again, by reintroducing restrictions, during 2021, in particular, until the justification for doing so has become impossible. In place of it, has come war fever in relation to Ukraine, and when that failed to stop consumer spending, and firms investing, again more direct means of slowing economies was introduced in the form of widespread restrictions on trade with Russia, in particular the import of gas, oil, grain and other such primary products, which has also acted to massively increase the global prices of them, itself acting as a drain on spending.

Last year, China grew at 18%.  So, given what has been said above, its clear why Chinese authorities would want to restrict that growth.  China is the workshop of the world, although like other developed economies, a large part of its economy is now service industry, which is labour-intensive.  High rates of growth, with high rates of employment growth, translate into rapidly rising interest rates, and consequent falls in asset prices.  Hence the imposition of a nonsensical zero-Covid strategy aimed at eradicating even infections, in conditions where near universal immunity means any infection is unlikely to result in serious illness let alone death.  The effect of the zero-Covid strategy has been to reduce Chinese growth this year to an expected level of 5%.

And, so, today, we now, again, see the Chinese central bank, proposing to respond to weakness in the Chinese economy – a weakness that is almost entirely due to its own policies of imposing severe lockdowns in Shanghai and other major cities – by, again, engaging in its own policies of QE and monetary stimulus, along with other state policies to shore up real estate prices and so on. In other words, as has happened in capitalist economies across the globe, since 2010, the capitalist state is deliberately undermining and weakening the real economy, and real capital, simply in order to prevent economic growth causing interest rates from rising from what are, ludicrously low and unsustainable levels, so as to keep asset prices, and so the paper wealth of the ruling class inflated.

Monday, 25 April 2022

The Heritage We Renounce - Section III - Has the “Heritage” Gained From Association With Narodism? (8/12)

The second fundamental feature of Narodism was the idea of Russian exceptionalism. The Narodniks continued to praise Marx and Engels analysis, and profess their adherence to it, whilst simultaneously ignoring it and claiming that it did not apply to Russia. They could not show why it did not apply to Russia by using Marx's scientific method to demonstrate that material conditions in Russia were different, and so could only make this argument by utilising the idealist and subjectivist sociological methods that preceded it. Similarly, today, the petty-bourgeois socialists and moralists continue to praise Marx and Engels, whilst totally rejecting their method.

In the case of the social-democrats that is not surprising, and for most of them even the feint praise for Marx is of the damning kind. But, most of those who claim to be Marxist are no such thing. The reasons for that were alluded to earlier. The Stalinists are nothing but social-democrats, whose Marxist verbiage is used as cover for their grotesque perversion. And, many of the Trotskyists are, in fact, simply petty-bourgeois moralists whose idealist and subjectivist positions derive from the Third Camp of the Petty-bourgeoisie, as Trotsky described it. As for the rest of the Trotskyist sects their petty-bourgeois socialism derives from years of competing for recruits with the Stalinists and other Left Social Democrats, as well as focusing their recruitment drive and activity within the wholly petty-bourgeois social milieu of student politics.

“The Narodniks bowed and scraped to the authors of this analysis and—calmly continued to remain romanticists of the same sort as these authors had all their lives contended against. Again, this doctrine of Russia’s exceptionalism, which is shared by all the Narodniks, far from having anything in common with the “heritage,” runs directly counter to it. The “sixties,” on the contrary, desired to Europeanise Russia, believed that she should adopt the general European culture, were concerned to have the institutions of this culture transferred to our anything but exceptional soil. Any doctrine that teaches that Russia is exceptional is completely at variance with the spirit and the tradition of the sixties.” (p 518)

And, its not just that today's petty-bourgeois socialists adopt this position, in terms of their “anti-imperialism”, Its seen in their “anti-capitalism”, the hostility to monopoly and the most developed forms of capital. It takes the form of seeking higher taxation of the largest corporations, reaching for windfall taxes on them as the solution to every new situation, and so on, which must hold back their more rapid development, accompanied by reactionary demands to support and subsidise smaller capitals with special measures, the most comprehensive form of which is welfarism, which enables these small, backward capitals to pay low wages, fail to provide education and training, and so on. All of that takes the place of a revolutionary perspective of seeking the most rapid development of large-scale socialised capital, and for the workers to collectively struggle for control over it.

Macron Wins With a Minority of Votes

Macron won the French Presidential election, but with a minority of votes, making it a pyrrhic victory, and indicative of things to come. Macron won 58.2% of the valid votes cast, but, firstly, 28.01% of voters did not turn up to vote, and of those that did only 91.4% cast a valid vote, with 6.35% casting a blank vote, and another 2.25% casting an invalid ballot in protest.

On that basis Macron's 58.2% vote, represents only 53.19% of votes cast, and only 38.29% of the total electorate. Still, of course, proportionally more than that of Le Pen, but hardly a mandate either, with a bigger proportion of the population deciding to either abstain, or to actively cast a protest vote than voted either for Macron or Le Pen.

Macron's supporters have, of course, highlighted the fact that he is the first candidate since Chirac to win re-election, but that simply illustrates the dire condition of French politics. With 13 million voters abstaining, it was the lowest turnout since 1969, indicating the fact that French voters disdained of the choice between either the right-wing nationalist politics of Le Pen or the right-wing Thatcherite policies of Macron. Its again an indication of the dire condition of politics that the Thatcherite politics of Macron were repeatedly described by the media as centrist, and also that large sections of the Left, and of social-democracy, seeking opportunistically to rally support around the “lesser-evil”, on the basis of “my enemy's enemy is my friend”, went along with such a description.

With Macron unable to seek another term as President, he now has five years in which to wreak further havoc with those same Thatcherite, anti-working class policies. The French Social-Democrats suffered the same fate as Pasok, as a result of repeated adherence themselves to Thatcherite/Blairite policies, with Hollande's left talking, and rapidly rightward actions, being the last straw. The French Socialist candidate, Anne Hidalgo obtained just 1.74% of the vote in the first round. The social-democrats of the French Communist Party did little better with just 2.28%.

The so called Left candidate, Melonchon, secured 21.95%, showing the extent to which French workers actually do want a credible workers' candidate to vote for offering at least some nod in the direction of their interests, much as happened with the historic rise in Labour's vote in 2017, when Corbyn became Leader, similar to the rise in support for Labour when Michael Foot became Leader in 1980. However, Foot, Corbyn and Melonchon all suffer the same defect, which is that their radical social-democratic politics remain constrained within that social-democratic framework, and what is worse, it is made impossible, and reactionary by the economic-nationalist ideology that dominates it.

Melonchon's economic nationalism was little different, in content, to the policies espoused by Le Pen, which is why around a third of his voters said they would vote for Le Pen in the second round, despite him calling on them not to do so. It is the same petty-bourgeois economic nationalism, and statism that led people like Nye Bevan to support the Moseley Memorandum, put forward as such an economic program by Oswald Moseley in the 1930's, first when he was a Labour Minister, and which became the foundation of his economic policies for the British Union of Fascists.

And, that same convergence of the petty-bourgeois, statist, reformist Left with the statist Right, was seen again in the 1970's with those like Tony Benn and Michael Foot, who lined up to oppose the EEC, with the National Front. Petty-bourgeois nationalism and statism is the cancer that continually eats away at the heart of the labour movement, in all countries. It was the foundation of it lining workers up behind their respective ruling classes for the slaughter of WWI and II, and is being seen again, now, in relation to those elements lining workers up behind NATO imperialism against Russia and China, as the world heads inexorably towards WWIII, which truly will be the war to end all wars, as humanity itself is destroyed.

Attention now turns to the French parliamentary elections, and with Le Pen's NR party having only 7 seats, the factors that led to the support for Macron, as the least shitty option, in this election, will not apply. The French workers need to rebuild and renew their political organisations, both for those elections, and for the class struggle that lies ahead.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

Idiot Anti-imperialism, The Falklands and Ukraine - Part 5 of 8

Not National Self-Determination But Workers Self-Determination

The reasons that socialists had no requirement to “defend Argentina”, or create an Argentinian Support Committee, let alone give their backing to Galtieri's war can be summarised as follows. Firstly, Argentina, itself, was not likely to be the subject of a British attempt to annex it, or colonise it. Secondly, even if the nature of any conflict were of that type, the responsibility of socialists is to oppose the oppressor state, not to support the ruling class/regime of the oppressed state. Had Britain actually, attempted to annex or colonise Argentina, we would not only oppose Britain's war, but we would support the Argentinian workers in fighting to resist it.

We give our support only to the struggle of the oppressed workers and peasants, which requires that they be independently organised “and trained to understand their special tasks, i.e., those of the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations”. Only on that basis would we call for support for Argentina. Thirdly, even if Argentina's claim to the Falklands had been legitimate, and even if the Falkland Islanders themselves expressed a desire for national self-determination as part of Argentina (the opposite of what they desired), if the implementation of that right would lead to a war between Argentina and Britain, dividing the workers of these states, then socialists would oppose it. And, of course, the opposite applied. The right of the islanders to self-determination, that Britain claimed to be upholding could not justify a war between Britain and Argentina, which would result in the workers of both large nations being brought into conflict.

“Does recognition of the right of nations to self-determination really imply support of any demand of every nation for self-determination? After all, the fact that we recognise the right of all citizens to form free associations does not at all commit us, Social-Democrats, to supporting the formation of any new association; nor does it prevent us from opposing and campaigning against the formation of a given association as an inexpedient and unwise step.”

(The National Question In Our Programme)


“Let us assume that between two great monarchies there is a little monarchy whose kinglet is “bound” by blood and other ties to the monarchs of both neighbouring countries. Let us further assume that the declaration of a republic in the little country and the expulsion of its monarch would in practice lead to a war between the two neighbouring big countries for the restoration of that or another monarch in the little country. There is no doubt that all international Social-Democracy, as well as the really internationalist section of Social-Democracy in the little country, would be against substituting a republic for the monarchy in this case. The substitution of a republic for a monarchy is not an absolute, but one of the democratic demands, subordinate to the interests of democracy (and still more, of course, to those of the socialist proletariat) as a whole.”

(The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up)

The fact that Argentina was a dictatorship, and Britain a bourgeois-democracy was irrelevant to any of these considerations, both being simply masks that the bourgeoisie picks up and discards, dependent upon which suits its needs best at any one time. However, a consideration of the nature of Galtieri's regime, and of other regimes that sections of the Left have supported, on the basis of their “anti-imperialist credentials”, is important in understanding the label “idiot anti-imperialism”. When Trotsky gave his interview with Fossi, and used the example of a war between Brazil and Britain, he was living in Mexico, and had agreed not to become involved in the country's politics. Otherwise, he might have used Mexico for his example. The Bonapartist regime of Cardenas had nationalised British oil wells in Mexico, and Britain had responded in normal threatening, gun boat diplomatic manner. A war between the two could have been possible.

Mexico did have a growing labour movement, and all the arguments that Trotsky outlined in relation to Brazil would have applied to Mexico. Indeed, it is this significance of the labour movement that was one factor in the bourgeoisie, in Mexico, looking to Cardenas, and in Brazil to Vargas, just as it was the strength of the labour movement in Argentina, in 1982, that was a factor in the ruling class having looked to Galtieri. Had Britain invaded Argentina, as opposed to just confronting the Argentine military on the Falklands, then the issue would have been the independent organisation of that working-class in Argentina, and its war against annexation by Britain. But, that was not the case, in terms of a war fought just on the islands, a war that, in large part, had been created because, on one side, Galtieri sought to rally Argentinians around the flag, at a time when he was being challenged by the Argentinian labour movement, and on the other, Thatcher sought to do the same, as her economic policies were in tatters, with mass unemployment, and rising opposition amongst the British working-class, threatening her government.

So, let us think of other occasions of oppression by large states, and the position of oppressed states. An obvious recent example is NATO's attack on and occupation of Iraq. Socialists clearly had a responsibility to oppose NATO's attack, and occupation/annexation, despite the fact that Iraq was run by a brutal dictator, and had itself engaged in predatory and expansionist activity and wars, for example, against Iran, and Kuwait. As Lenin put it,

“If we do not want to betray socialism we must support every revolt against our chief enemy, the bourgeoisie of the big states, provided it is not the revolt of a reactionary class. By refusing to support the revolt of annexed regions we become, objectively, annexationists. It is precisely in the “era of imperialism”, which is the era of nascent social revolution, that the proletariat will today give especially vigorous support to any revolt of the annexed regions so that tomorrow, or simultaneously, it may attack the bourgeoisie of the “great” power that is weakened by the revolt.”


Again, reactionary class, here, is to be distinguished from the political regime. It does not mean fascist as against, bourgeois-democratic, but, for example, feudal as against bourgeois. So, socialists not only opposed the NATO war, but “must support” the revolt against it. However, the question then arises, what the content of this “must support” actually means. Does it mean, for example, that socialists “must support” that rebellion in the shape of the regime of Saddam? After his demise, did it mean “must support” a rebellion led by the reactionaries of the various jihadist groups?

As, the quotes from The Theses On The National and Colonial Questions clearly show, obviously not. And, these further quotes from it indicate that even more clearly,

“the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries...

the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.”

It is clearly not possible to be waging a struggle against the clergy and Pan-Islamism, at the same time as supporting a “liberation” movement that is comprised entirely of such elements, or even just dominated by them!

The only rebellion that socialists are bound to support is the one undertaken by a revolutionary proletariat and peasantry, even if conducted on the basis of a temporary alliance with other class forces. So, for example, socialists in opposing the NATO invasion of Iraq, would make clear that such opposition implied no support for the regime of Saddam, and that we supported a struggle by the Iraqi labour movement to resist the occupation, even if that required a tactical military alliance between it, and other Iraqi class forces, but only on the basis that the former retained its political and organisational independence from them, as its class enemy. But, the petty-bourgeois Left, was all over the place when it came to Iraq.