>The state has the role of maintaining the labour army, including its
>reserve. It may be that provision is private: it is still the state's role
>to ensure that this is done. This can be seen in the transition from state
>to private pensions: the market is introduced, and many workers will lose
>out, but it is still the job of the state to see that this is done
>properly. (Of course, those who are superannuated, the state may say hell
>with them: but this would mean they need looking after by their relations,
>who would demand compensation elsewhere through higher pay etc.)
>The welfare state was imposed FROM ABOVE. Nothing to do with the balance of
>class forces, a well-fed and educated labour army is necessary to compete
>as a world capitalist power and fight in various wars etc.
>What we are really talking about is the historical battle
>between manufacturing capital, and finance and landed capital which
>approaches capital "as a consumer" (Marx's words). Manufacturers require as
>immediate aims a well-fed, trained, docile workforce. The others require no
>such thing as long as manufacturers are still paying their bills, however
>the burden is distributed.
This is the usual petty-bourgeois lament about "productive capitalists"
(what Simon calls "manufacturing capital") getting a rough deal while the
"unproductive capitalists" ("finance and landed capital") get all the
goodies. The Americans are far better at this kind of radical democratic
anti-fat-cat polemic, because there there are so many radical
petty-bourgeois who still have no conception that socialism is the only
actual historical alternative. (Examples: Ferdinand Lundberg "The Rich and
the Super-Rich", Estes Kefauver, etc etc and today Noam Chomsky). This
critical current doesn't accept Marx's analysis that all other capitalist
groups are swallowed up by finance capital. Even in Marx's time the
"productive" bourgeois element in manufacturing was not the owners but
employed management. Of course the (relative) exploitation of this group of
hireling specialists and supervisors, and especially their exclusion from
the real heights of financial capitalist power is what really aggravates
the petty-bourgeois democrat critic.
It's also -- and many thanks to Simon for making this point so clearly -- a
hymn to the supposed benevolence of the bourgeois state as such. Necessity
and duty dictate that the state "maintains" the labour army and its
reserve. And the workforce must be "well-fed and educated", "well-fed,
trained, docile". But this is hogwash. Such things of course help a society
and an economy, but no bourgeois state wishes to pay for them. The most
that can be claimed is that a state might have an interest in living
labour-power as opposed to dead, and that this labour-power should be in a
position not to fuck up any machine it is told to operate. But living
labour-power can be imported when needed, and companies can train staff on
the job. No need for welfare, health or education funded by the public
The "competitive edge" is utopian long-term thinking that is foreign to the
bourgeoisie. Their mouthpieces sometimes trumpet this as policy but it's
only holiday speechifying.
I remember about ten years ago an amazing article in The Economist that
praised the Swedish system of education and employment offices because it
guaranteed a large, energetic, skilled and flexible workforce. The trouble
was that the article came at precisely the time that all this was going
down the drain in Sweden thanks to the active intervention of the state to
dismantle, to demolish everything the magazine was praising. And of
course, in Britain by then even the faintest hope of emulating the supposed
Swedish model had gone.
Capital doesn't need educated workers, it needs brain-dead workers.
Educated workers are dangerous.
It doesn't need skilled workers, it needs trained workers. Skilled workers
are proud and demanding.
It doesn't need independent workers, it needs (and Simon is right on this
point -- even a blind hen may find a grain of wheat!) docile workers.
Independent workers know they can do it all better without the capitalists
and their hangers-on.
>> 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
Simon disagreed with this. He can see contradictions among different
sectors of the bourgeoisie, apparently, but not between the great classes
>The state becomes the source
>of wealth, and that group which controls the state constitutes a ruling
>class, just as in free market capitalism the group which controls the
>shares and deeds constitutes a ruling class.
So now we know what constitutes class. Nothing to do with ownership of the
means of production, but control of the "sources of wealth". This is not
>Or are our capitalists just a
>caste? By your argument, they are. You just don't want to use the word
>"class" because as soon as you do then the whole edifice crashes down
>around your ears.
Turn this into plain English, and we have Simon shooting his own balls off.
Simon in fact claims that "our capitalists" control shares and deeds, and
are therefore a class. But he claims that the really important thing is
"control" of "the source of wealth" which is a definition of caste. Like
blinded Samson he pulls the columns out from under the temple -- but it's
not my temple he's dragging down on himself but his own.
"Control" is a sick word used in the debate about the meritocracy and the
technocratic and managerial "revolutions" to disguise where real power is
actually located. It's presence in key passages of argument is often a sign
of something deeply wrong -- like the green patches on bread showing the
whole loaf's rotten with mould.
> 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.
To which Simon replied:
>And there again, it is the West which has trhe capability, with a fully
>formed capitalism, to overturn it all: it is the state capitalist nations
>which must lose their partial character and become fully capitalist, rather
>than part peasant, part manufacturer, etc. as a quantitative change, in
>order to take part in this process. If the West had had a proper socialist
>revolution, it would then have had to revolutionise the state capitalists:
>that is what Lenin was BANKING on.
I've rarely seen such pure stagism, and dignified with Lenin's name and
all! Simon has all the makings of a Stalinist of the purest water! Since
he, like Stalin and the rest, sees no essential difference between the mode
of production in say the US and the Soviet Union, then it becomes a simple
question, as he so openly and disarmingly says, of "quantitative change, in
order to take part in this process".
I'll add to my as yet unanswered question about Simon's views on Chavez in
Venezuela (obviously way over his head) this simpler question about South
Africa: does Simon think the ANC was right in its goal of first achieving
bourgeois democracy, only then to contemplate any further advance towards
Dave B is right about Simon's current being recycled Menshevism. It's
anti-class-struggle, idealist, utopian, petty-bourgeois socialism, of the
Still, Simon does formulate these positions with a charming naivety that
adds a bubble or two to the discussion. It's not like arguing with
Stalinist thugs like Olaeachea or certain characterless and unprincipled
petty-bourgeois traffickers in left opportunism like, hm, shall we say...
Proyeccht, for instance. On the other hand, as Dave implies, it does lack
the revolutionary fervour and the feeling that this really matters that you
get with serious revolutionary anarchists (a dying breed) or with
revolutionary state caps, like Neil in California or Tony H in Melbourne.
"Changes dictated by social necessity are sure to work their way sooner or
later, because the imperative wants of society must be satisfied, and
legislation will always be forced to adapt itself to them."
Karl Marx, "The abolition of landed property -- Memorandum for Robert
Applegarth, December 3 1869"
This is published in the Collected Works of Marx and Engels, Vol 23
1871-74, p. 131, under the title of "The Nationalisation of the Land". It
was written in 1872 as notes for Eugene Dupont, the organizer of the
Manchester section of the Working Men's International Association. Dupont's
report at the May 8 meeting of the section was published in the
International Herald on June 15, 1872. This report, which differs slightly
from the notes published in the M-E Archives, is the text published in the
* * *
"Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat
with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat
of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its
Communist Manifesto, 1848, end of first section "Bourgeois and Proletarians"
* * *
"The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by
a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat."
Transitional Programme -- The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of
the Fourth International, 1938, perhaps the most important programmatic
document for which Trotsky bore major responsibility. Introduction.
* * *
And on a lighter note:
His lockid, lettered, braw brass collar,
Shew'd him the gentleman and scholar.
[Rabbie Burruns, The Twa Dogs, 1.13]
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