Was Hitlerism a mis-guided but understandable response to the Versailles treaty imposed on Germany following its defeat in World War One? Was Stalinism a legitimate reaction to imperialist containment? Was Zionism a proletarian reaction to the Holocaust? Why then are we supposed to swallow the notion that the petty-bourgeois gangsters of Islamism are responding in some kind of progressive way to racism in Europe and imperialis…t wars in Africa and the Middle East? The bogus anti-imperialism of the neo-Stalinists places it invariably on the side of the counter-revolution, on the side of petty-bourgeois movements that are supplementary to imperialism, the product of revolutionary failure and mortal enemies of the working classes. Let us remember that 99.999999 per cent of the vicitims of Islamism are ordinary African and Middle Eastern working class Muslims. But we should not be surprised by the counter-revolutionary duplicity of the neo-Stalinists who believe that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists got what was coming to them because these same people backed the vicious Assad against the Syrian National Democratic Revolution as he hacked his way through the Syrian people. They cheered Congress and Parliament as they voted to turn their back on mass slaughtered and hailed their actions as a victory for anti-imperialism. In fact, they go much further. They actually back Russian imperialism against the Ukraine National Democratic Revolution and his support for fascist pro-Russian irregulars in the east of that country. Neo-Stalinism is a cancer in the socialist movement. Its response to collapsing capitalist globalisation as achieved behind the US imperialists is not to champion its transcending by world proletarian revolution, they would actually laugh at such a suggestion such is their cynicism, but to support the re-emergence of inter-imperialist rivalry between several major powers above the heads of the masses as a way of keeping the peace. This is why they invariably support reactionaries and it is why they will follow capitalism into a New Dark Ages as the film of globalisation unwinds. It is, as it was always predicted it would be, a straight choice between socialism or barbarism. Our Neo-Stalinist chums are choosing barbarism at every turn.
The labour movement needs a New Charter if it is to overcome the dead hand of New Labour and the danger of right wing populism.
It is more than possible that Labour will be wiped out in England just as it has been in Scotland for its failure to support a radical alternative. In England however waiting in the wings is not some woolly, non-commital, vaguely left wing populism such as that offered by the SNP but the altogether more sinister demagoguery of the crypto-fascist UKIPerrs.
So, here it is:
The New Charter
1. A regime of full-employment – We must have a regime of full-employment by which every school and college leaver and unemployed worker who cannot find their own job is bought into the local workforce to share in the available productive work on the minimum of a trades union living wage. This is not work-for-your-dole or some Keynesian inflationary policy or a vague wish or a method of handing public money to bottom-feeding private companies to force young people into zero-hour contracts. Young people should have nothing to do with any politician who does not pledge full-employment and explain how it can be achieved.
2. A People’s Bank – We must end the bail out of the bankrupt banks and let them go under. The bail out is destroying the real economy and along with austerity and monopoly profits contributing to the greatest redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich since the Highalnd Clearances and the Enclosure of the Commons. The estates, deposits and staff of the bankrupts must be taken into administration to form a new People’s Bank with a monopoly of credit so that the private financiers can never again rip off the entire nation with their Ponzi Schemes and counterfeit claims on wealth. This bank is to ensure sound money, lend at base rate to small business and facilitate social investment in accordance with a democratic and sustainable plan.
3. Workers democracy and socialist property – Democracy shouldn’t end at the factory gate or the office turnstyle. We must replace the Old School Tie Network and absentee shareholder-imposed fat cat executives with leaders and managers elected by all-grades of workers. There is no need to wait for some government to enact this. Workers should establish All-Grade Committees that can challenge the current management and argue for social ownership where appropriate.
4. Defence of public spending and of the labour movement – We must defend all necessary and desirable public spending and it must be paid for by the collection of sufficient taxation through a fair and just taxation system. We must also defend our movement against those who would attack it both politically and with violence. We must build local defence forces based in the trades unions and community groups to defrend demonstrations, occupations, picket lines, meetings and individuals from the fascist and police scourge.
5. Federal Britain and a Socialist EU – We need a federation of sovereign British nations to replace the Westminister Union. Labour have been wiped out in Scotland for failing to support this radical demand. They same thing could happen in England but they will be usurped not by the woolly, vaguely left, populism of the SNP but the right wing demagogues of UKIP. At the same time the founding treaties of the European Union should be renegotiated in accordance with socialist principles as opposed to the neo-liberal ones that are currently tearing it apart. Principles such as EU-wide full-employment and an EU-wide Living Wage should replace the dog eat dog mentality that has workers chasing each others’ tails all over the continent in search of worse and worse wages, welfare and working conditions.
End the tyranny of capital. Replace the bourgeois welfare state with a democatic workers’ state. The rule of a tiny elite and their bought and paid for politicians with the rule of the multi-millioned working class and popular masses. Long live socialism.
The study of the interaction of discrete political powers when what takes place within those powers is considered irrelevant is called political realism. Though it can be applied widely it finds its supreme expression in the study of the relations between states.
Political realism has a particular view of an unchanging human nature as inherently self-interested and egoistic. Apart from this insight you can `black box’ individuals as you need know no more about them in order to understand the dynamics of the relations between them. Of course in society there are all sorts of influences and systems that mitigate against such a rudimentary understanding but in the sphere of international relations where anarchy, lack of government, reigns supreme society cannot emerge and the egoistic actors with the will to survive must help themselves in an interminable game of cat and mouse or even dog eat dog. In later manifestations anarchy is considered a behaviour-imposing system preventing the individual actors from ever becoming `socialised’ as some idealists insist they can be.
Millennia of observation and data collecting have allowed realism to identify a number of rules about, for instance, power balancing between states. They have observed that under the systemic pressure of anarchy states eventually balance power between themselves. That when those power-balancing arrangements are multi-polar the five or six major powers confront each other directly but that when those arrangements are bi-polar the two main powers fight only proxy wars if for no other reason than that the fewer variables in a bi-polar system makes power balancing easier. There is considerably less room for misunderstanding.
Within the system of anarchy that rules over whatever discreet, interacting powers we are looking at, in this case states, we can see then that the power-balancing arrangements are constantly changing, dissolving and reforming, but the one thing that never changes is the metaphysical system of anarchy in which these changes occur. Realism, and this is where it gets its name, always advises statesmen that you do not mess with this reality without dire consequences.
Take George W Bush and his efforts to spread democracy around the world after the end of the Cold War. His hubristic idealism designed to remake the world in America’s image resulted in catastrophe. America got bogged down in Iraq having squandered a considerable amount of blood and treasure resulting in the rise of the very oppositional forces whose emergence Bush had hoped to prevent in the first place. Not even the mighty US, the greatest power the world has ever seen, fresh from its victory in the Cold War, could overcome systemic anarchy.
Of course, realism does no explain the constantly changing landscape within the never-changing system. It is brushed over as uninteresting. States that are revisionist of the world order arise to challenge the status quo powers presumably, but this is never stated, because they no longer feel they can survive if things stay the same. Perhaps it is not stated because it would make the radical idealists that the realists rail against realists too and the conservative realists who want to maintain the status quo idealists of a sort.
Nevertheless, six thousands years of experience makes realism difficult to argue with which is just as well for it as its primary function as a political ideology is to prove that change, real change, is impossible.
Whilst no system can exist without change it is equally true that no system has ever been found that can exist for ever. The changes taking place within it are not simply a never ending rearrangement of the parts but a dynamic and developing interaction between them. The closed system of energy production known as The Sun has been pumping out heat and light for millions of years and will go on doing so for millions more but we know that once the hydrogen has all been used up The Sun will be no more. In fact the 6,000 years of state interaction is itself only a tiny fraction of the 200,000 years that homo sapiens have been roaming the earth and it was Marx who some 150 years ago who foresaw the end of this system by pointing out the dynamics of the base on which it sat.
States arose, he said, when society split into classes. This gave a huge impetus to the development and continued development of the productive capacity of human kind. It also established the ever changing patterns of interstate relations. Realism sees only these patterns and not the impetus behind it which it discards and renders irrelevant. So whilst it perfectly describes the rules of this system after it has been established and before it dies it cannot tell us how it came into being or how it will come to an end. The development of the productive forces which ensures that the changes within the system are not simply circular but directional is ignored.
Capitalism, for Marx, whilst by far the most dynamic form of class society was also its final form. It would take the means of production to previously unconsidered levels of productivity and scale. It would respect no borders and demolish all Chinese walls as he put it before succumbing to its own contradictions and the limits that the nation state on which it first arose would finally place upon it.
Capitalism has created an almost fully integrated global economy but it has not been able to transcend the systemic anarchy that moderates the behaviour of states. Returning to George W Bush we can see that his attempt to unify the post-Cold War world under US-hegemony and remake it in its image was pure idealism in that he believed America could overcome the constraints of anarchy or reality as the realists would have it. But in another way Bush and the so-called neo-Conservatives he led were being profoundly realistic in that they were aware that if America did not impose its political hegemony over the planet globalisation itself was in danger.
And so it proved to be. Since the Iraq fiasco the world is being returned to a condition of multi-polarity. The mighty American imperialist bourgeoisie has, for the time being, rejected the idealism of the neo-Cons and under Obama adopted a policy actually designed to allow the emergence of rival powers that it hopes can share the burden of policing the world whilst it of course remains the first amongst equals.
This new-found realism on the part of the American ruling classes is of course proving to be the crassest idealism. Multi-polarity is indeed emerging but with a backdrop of capitalist disintegration the last thing it is likely to result in is a stable balance of power.
The world economy has outgrown the egoistic states and the anarchic system in which they swim or, as it has been previously called, the Prison House of Nations. Globalisation has seen to that. But there can be no going back. To be a realist now is to be the most cynical idealist. The return to multi-polarity now foreshadows permanent global conflagration amongst the great powers as they divide and re-divide a constantly shrinking pie. It portends not a new epoch of peace or a new Golden Age for capitalism but a New Dark Ages from which humanity will never escape.
The system of discreet political entities that wish to survive existing in a condition of anarchy that this wish creates can no longer change. The economic system will not allow it to go into reverse nor, in a globalised world, can it find new forms. And a system that can no longer change is doomed. Today’s `realists’ are not arguing that there can be no escape from the system but that there must be.
There is only one force with both the inclination and the wherewithal to achieve this transcendence or sublation: the international proletariat. Wresting control of their respective nations from the venal capitalist class they will establish states that do not wish to survive except in opposition to those that do. States that will dissolve as the basis for their existence, class divisions, disappear. Anarchy will be replaced by co-operation and co-development and eventually a completely integrated world economy unencumbered by political divisions operated on the basis of reason and the principles of sustainability and the satisfaction of human need undistorted by capitalist alienation.
It sounds strange doesn’t it to hear it suggested that a system based on profit has become the victim of too much of the stuff? Even stranger to be told that the richest people on the planet cannot afford to pay tax? But here is how and here is why.
Let’s start with an examination of profit. A worker sells their labour power, their ability to work, to the employer and is paid a wage in return. The unique thing about the commodity labour power is that when deployed it produces more exchange value than it costs. This surplus value is appropriated by the capitalist when he sells the commodities that the worker has produced. When you deduct the capital invested in constant capital (plant, machinery, energy, buildings, etc) and that invested in variable capital (wages) from the income the capitalist gets selling the commodities sold you are left with the profit. This is the capitalist’s sole and only motivation for investing in production.
It follows, then, that the more additional labour power contained in the commodities produced after accounting for constant capital the bigger the surplus value stolen by the capitalist and the bigger therefore the profit.
Capitalism is in constant competition with itself which drives the capitalist on a restless search to reduce costs which he does by replacing workers with machines. The unintended consequence of this is that the amount of socially necessary labour power contained in the soon to be sold commodities is reduced and so, therefore, it naturally follows, is the amount of surplus value that the capitalist can appropriate. The rate of profit on these particular commodities falls as they get cheaper. Just as in the production of a particular commodity the rate of profit is determined by the surplus value stolen by the capitalist so it is the case with the system of commodity production as a whole so that capital is driven to move around looking for the best returns and in so doing establishes a general rate of profit. Over time this general rate of profit declines.
Of course, there are counteracting phenomena that sometimes temporarily reverse or arrest this decline such as when the constant capital needed to produce a commodity cheapens against the variable capital increasing the amount of socially necessary labour power in each commodity compared to the plant and machinery. These counteracting phenomena means that the law of the declining rate of profit manifests as a tendency but the law is far stronger than the counteracting phenomena that make it a tendency and it tends towards a rate of zero. Imagine if there was no labour power being bought and sold but that robots made everything including the robots that made everything. Under these circumstances with no surplus value to appropriate the general rate of profit would be zero. Under those circumstances the capitalist would have no reason to invest and production would come to a shuddering halt.
Of course things will never get to that point. They system will collapse around its ears long before that.
The same competition that drives rising productivity also leads to concentration and monopoly. Global output today is truly colossal and the investment contained in the non-human means of production just to churn that out every year is equally colossal. Finding that is hard enough but growing it by even a quarter of one per cent requires huge amounts of wealth.
At base of course capitalism is a political economy with workers and capitalists engaged in a daily struggle for survival and this is what makes the problem of declining general profit rates a problem for the capitalist because without growth he cannot give ideological disguise to the system of wage slavery and pretend that he is acting not in his own self-serving interests but for society as a whole. Divide and rule is not so easy and requires more and more naked violence. So, in order to avoid the consequences of the declining rate of profit Messrs Capitalists attempt to compensate themselves by increasing its mass. They churn out more and more and more of whatever particular commodity they are involved with.
The profits the capitalists make today are indeed eye-watering in terms of numbers but they are made from a more or less stagnant economic base and compared to the investments needed they represent a very meagre return for the system as a whole. The capitalists have tried everything over the years to mitigate this problem from colonialism to Victorian philanthropy to imperialism to scorched earth to financial de-regulation which resulted in the most spectacular Ponzi Schemes the world has ever seen organised by the world’s financial centres lasting 30 years and finally exploding in 2008 leaving the global capitalist system not just stagnant and sclerotic but bankrupt as well.
Nothing has been able to prevent capital concenration and monopoly and arrest the fall in the rate of profit such that today some 85 individuals control more personal wealth than 3.5 billion individuals and a handful of corporations rule the world. The Egyptian Pharaos would have blushed.
But it gets worse because now the austerity that capitalist governments are piling on the poor and working class to bail out the banks and which is adding to the shrinking of the world economy is being added to by the monopoly profiteering of the enormous corporations who in order to keep their profits up are selling commodities above their value which means that others in a weaker position must sell theirs below their value and this is adding to the monopolisation of the means of production and the shrinking of overall economic activity. It is a perfect storm indicating the end of capitalism’s life. In order to make any kind of profit the amount of capital required is truly huge but by making more profits the corporations are destroying the economic activity they need to make those profits.
Millions of non-workers live off the surplus value created by the working class which helps the tiny elites at the head of capitalism to control the general population and propogate its ideology. This largesse comes to them in all manner of ways but mainly through the capitalist state and the taxes it levies on capitalist profits. But now, with profit rates tiny and monopoly so advanced the capitalist class cannot afford for their capital to be eaten into by taxes or they will be gobbled up by their competitors. This addes to the bankruptcy of the state and drives austerity.
So there we have it the super rich cannot afford to pay taxes and profits are destroying the profit system. The result is that the capitalist system which became truly globalised under US tutelage is going into rapid reverse and decline. Politically the system is reverting to five or six squabbling great powers intent on redividing the world as America buckles under the strain. It points to a New Dark Ages and a regime of global barbarism from which we might never escape.
Our only hope is that world proletarian revolution will transcend capitalist globalisation and take human kind into a new phase of its existence. Control of the distribution of the surplus value created by the working class will pass to the working class itself until there are no classes and no states.
American-sponsored globalisation is in rapid decline and reverse. In fact, the war in Iraq that was supposed to consolidate the US as the world’s sole and only super power in the post-Cold War interval had only the opposite effect of producing what it was supposed to suppress both because of the threat it posed and because of its spectacular failure: imperialist rivals. The world is reverting to multi-polarity and inter-imperialist rivalry as the film of globalisation is wound off backwards. Unfortunately our neo-Stalinist chums are welcoming this process as the road to world peace which is why they are so hot for Putin. They see power balancing between five or six major world powers above the heads of the seven billion as a desirable outcome as well as the only possible one. In fact, for all their criticism of US-imperialism this is more or less US foreign policy nowadays. Since 2008, the Iraq debacle and the world economic catastrophe, they have been seeking allies in the policing of the world and have been pursuing engagement but of course with the intention of remaining if not the one and only world power at least the first amongst equals. This lies behind the appeasement of Putin both by the US ruling elite and the neo-Stalinised left but also Putin’s adventurism. But why do the neo-Stalinists see this as a desirable future rather than the dangerous decay of the system and the short route to a New Dark Ages? Because like its original manifestation it is pathologically counter-revolutionary and conservative. Mere mention of proletarian revolution brings gales of raucous, contemptuous but nervous laughter. The fact that US-sponsored globalisation can only be transcended by world proletarian revolution is enough to send it scuttling into the arms of the Putins of this world. Where once they paid lip-service to the International now they treat it with contempt. Their victory over the international labour movement would spell defeat and death for the world working class. They must be fought politically and ideologically not to mention relentlessly.
This from a report of the discussion at the recent so-called revolutionary regroupment conference between Socialist Resistance, Workers Power, ISN, RS21 (both recent SWP splinters) and the Anti-Capitalist Initiative (whatever anti-capitalism is):
I find this the most difficult of the four debates to encapsulate. This is because for the best of reasons – to allow as many people as possible to speak – throughout the day initial speakers from the organisations were given five minutes to speak and speakers from the floor three minutes. However, in the case of Ukraine we were dealing with a highly complex and evolving situation and it was very difficult for speakers to develop their points fully in the allocated time. Personally, I could only make real sense of the debate by reading what was in the conference documents as well as listening to what was said.
Essentially, I would say that everyone in the room agreed that there was a need to oppose Russian imperialism but that the emphasis must be on resisting all interventions by British/EU/US imperialism. There was complete rejection of the view, expressed for by example by Eamonn McCann, that in this conflict we should support Russia. Again there was a range of views expressed, irrespective which organisations speakers belonged to with only WP pursuing a party line. To me, it seemed that WP were downplaying the role of Russian imperialism or at least this was the case with their verbal contributions as against what they produced in writing. However, I did find myself in agreement with WP’s perspective that if a proper referendum was held in the Crimea the outcome would still be that an overwhelming
majority would vote to become part of Russia and that there might be a similar outcome in other parts of Eastern Ukraine.
In my assessment, other speakers differed in their analysis of the Maidan movement with regard to whether it represented a popular movement which was hijacked by the nationalists and fascists or whether the movement was entirely reactionary from the very start. Where there was some agreement was on the need to learn from socialists on the ground in Ukraine and Russia who oppose war, Putin’s expansionist plans and the presence of fascists in the current government of Ukraine. This was something that seemed to me to be missing from WP’s analysis. Essentially, our task must be to act in solidarity with these socialists and anti-war activists whilst recognising that our main responsibility is to campaign against EU/NATO intervention.
Oh dear. It’s Syria all over again. Oh yes we support the Ukrainians as we supported the Syrians but our main priority is to support Assad or Putin against the West. This is the same logic that saw these same people marching shoulder to shoulder with the Stalinist Stop the War Coalition alongside Assad’s thugs in London or outside the US Embassy in support of Gadaffi’s desire to flatten Benghazi unopposed. The StWC somehow managed to turn a movement of three million people into 200 pathetic Putin apologists and this revolutionary regroupment is without doubt part of that scenario if these are the kind of positions they are going to come out with. These are the people who lauded the US Congress and UK Parliaments as the beating hearts of anti-imperialism when they voted to abandon the Syrian people to their bloody fate.