Simon makes some points:
>> Workers like these two toiled for a pittance for decades, with
>> the lifetime promise of a communist state's "iron rice bowl."
>> Now, caught between two economic eras, they feel betrayed.
>Capitalism tells us all that we will be well off if we work hard. China, as
>elsewhere. Then, as now.
Wrong. The "iron rice bowl" was no promise, it was a reality. As was cheap
accommodation. A pittance the wages might have been, but they didn't have
to stretch to cover exorbitant prices for the most basic necessities. And
agricultural workers won't thrown off the land, and factory workers weren't
thrown on to the streets. The sense of betrayal is not at an unfulfilled
promise, but at a system of permanent security that was destroyed with the
move away from a workers state with planning to a capitalist state where
the LOV has free play (including the tender mercies of the multinationals
and monopolies that this gives rise to).
>> China has only begun to create Western-style unemployment,
>> welfare, pension and health insurance systems -- all vital to
>> smoothing the transition from the old government-run economy to a
>> modern market one.
>Because when the state ran industry it was not necessary to have a separate
>state welfare scheme.
Simon seems to assume that state control automatically implies universal
welfare schemes. I'd like to see some arguments for this assumption.
>> In the past, state enterprises had lifelong obligations to their
>> workers, including living allowances and medical care for those
>> laid off.
>Just as the state has in the West.
A very sweeping statement that begs too many questions. Particularly
historical-political ones relating to the origin and purpose of the various
state-run enterprises in question in different economies.
Seems to me that the state as such is responsive to the contradictory
pressures in society in the west, and the availability or not of benefits
of various kinds is directly related to the balance of class forces in the
society in question. If the bourgeoisie has the upper hand, the benefits
are cut (regardless of the ostensible slant of the government of the day).
Now in workers states, the pressures were not so much from internal
contradictions as from the interaction between the counter-revolutionary
bureaucratic regime (which of course *is* a kind of internal contradiction,
but not a class one, rather a *caste* one) and world imperialism. This is
shown by the permanence of the benefits until the decisive breakdown of the
bureaucracy in the face of the untenable pressures on them from the workers
at home and the imperialists in the world market. Once the bureaucracy
chooses to capitulate to the imperialist bourgeoisie rather than hand over
their power and privileges to the democratic control of the associated
producers, the floodgates are opened and the "welfare" mechanisms of the
workers states unravel at a hair-raising pace. The instant qualitative
aspect of this demonstrates clearly enough that a qualitative change is
taking place -- from a workers state to a bourgeois state, from a state
that keeps the LOV at bay, to one that doesn't. In the west there is no
such instant and dramatic transformation, there is the slow grind of class
war in the usual win-a-few lose-a-few process. Unless of course a change of
regime from bourgeois democratic reaction to bourgeois Bonapartism
(military dictatorship) makes it possible to attempt to suppress the rights
of the organized working class at one fell swoop.
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