Monday, June 13, 2011

Notes on the Class Struggle in the USA

Written by John Peterson
Monday, 13 June 2011


February 19, Wisconsin. Photo: Jonathan Bloy

We publish here the notes used by John Peterson, National Secretary of the WIL, as the basis for his introduction to the discussion on "Perspectives for the Class Struggle in the United States" at the 2011 WIL Marxist National School. We recommend it be read in conjunction with the U.S. Perspectives 2010 document approved at the WIL's last National Congress.

Read the rest here



RENEGADE EYE

46 comments:

Joe Conservative said...

What we're currently economically experiencing in the USA is not a crises of capitalism... but one of socialism. There's only so many parasites that a capitalist system can support before the vital lifeblood is drained away into too many useless and non-productive endeavors which yield ever diminishing returns (ie - bridges and high-speed rail trains to nowhere).

Joe Conservative said...

Proof. Venezuela is literally DROWNING in oil and oil revenues, but can't even generate enough electricity to keep it's 15 million television sets running. Why is that?

Renegade Eye said...

JoeC: All this time, I thought the US was capitalist.

Chavez has been moving so far to the right, nothing surprises me. His new buddy is the president of Colombia.

Try speaking to the post.

The Pagan Temple said...

Ren-

The US has been moving inexorably toward a state capitalist system ever since the Kennedy-Johnson years, at least, with just a few short intervals that afforded a breathing space during the Reagan years.

The US hasn't had a free market system since the Coolidge years.

Joe Conservative said...

JoeC: All this time, I thought the US was capitalist.

That's binary thinking Ren. Degree's of socialism encompass ALL the vast "middle ground" between laissez-faire capitalism and communism.

Is the economy laissez-faire? THAT's your indication that it's NO LONGER purely capitalist... it's "modified" capitalism. The "modifier" being socialism (a now kinder-gentler capitalism built on state sponsored political promises and IOU's that ultimately lead to devalued/debased international currencies and lenders NOT getting completely paid back what they are owed. In a truely CAPITALIST economy, the lenders get back what they are owed PLUS interest.).

Just like the concept of "justice" is NOT the same as "social justice". A "class action" is never as "just" as an individual trial... which is why Socrates would NOT participate in the trial of the six admirals.

Joe Conservative said...

The Chinese call their government intervention in the economy precisely what it is, "social management" (aka - government regulation/ socialism)

from The Australian

The recent violence, however, has exposed the limits of the government's ability to control the urban population using internet censorship what party leaders refer to as "social management".

Welcome to the Disciplinary Societies transition to a Society of Control. "What about Sovereignty," you ask? THAT dissappeared the day laissez-faire ceased being liberties watch word. ;)

Ross Wolfe said...

The nature of capitalism is not determined by the free market. It is determined by the existence of capital, value that is circulated so as to add value to itself.

Thersites said...

Try again, wolfie.

Ross Wolfe said...

Thersites, the article you linked qualified the capitalism they described as laissez-faire capitalism, implying that there are all sorts of other forms of capitalism.

Ren: I am glad that you are acknowledging Chavez's political improv act, flirting with old leftist and socialist language while consorting with all sorts of right-wing politicians from the region and around the world. This is why I place virtually no faith in the man or even his movement.

Ross Wolfe said...

Joe C and Pagan Temple:

Just out of curiosity, how do free-market only capitalists explain the numerous crises that took place under laissez-faire market conditions? The numerous crises throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries? 1825, 1837, 1847, 1857, 1866, 1873, 1893, 1896, 1901, 1907, 1911, 1929? I understand that most free-market theorists allow for the cyclical pattern of boom and bust, but these were MAJOR economic crises. None of the minor recessions the world has experienced since 1929 come even close to the crisis of 1893 in terms of disorder, financial collapse, and so on. And it was quickly followed by a series of other, smaller crises.

Thersites said...

implying that there are all sorts of other forms of capitalism.

...and there aren't many sorts and forms of socialism? Hmmmm, most of the Social Democratic states are described by Leftists as "capitalist" (no qualifiers). Why is that?

Thersites said...

how do free-market only capitalists explain the numerous crises that took place under laissez-faire market conditions?

Rapid technological innovation and development making older products and the capital necessary to produce them obsolete. Nobody has a hardline telephones any more.

Thersites said...

btw - The corporate "trusts" of the 1890's were hardly "laissez-faire" capitalism. The government had been transferring huge tracts of land to the railroads, from the 1850's on, gratis. Government involvement in the economy expanded from there, leading to the creation of the federal reserve system.

Bigger and ever bigger government sponsored economic "fixes" for the previous generation of government solutions leading to investment bubbles for what should have been an economic non-problem (the invisible hand). Eyeglasses fashioned for Plutus struggling against invisibility inherent in laissez-faire.

Joe Conservative said...

Reducing economic "risk" merely accelerates the onset of the "society of control". We can than blame the "take no risk" derivative generating, mortgage bundling "social perfecters" for "too big to fail".

Everything you hate about capitalism is something a socialist invented to circumvent it's effects... open society public transparency for heretofor closed and innately "invisible" private transactions.

Idiots. You (Keynsians) created this economic Tower of Babel. Don't blame the wind (laissez-faire capitalism) for the tower's collapse.

The Pagan Temple said...

Ross-

The only one of those crises you mentioned that was of long duration was the one in 1837, which I believe actually started before then, and was caused by Jackson's war against the national bank, and exacerbated by his hard specie policy. He demanded payment in gold for federal lands and would not accept paper money, for example. His policies threw the entire economy into a tailspin.

The 1896 problem was caused by President Harrison's increase in the printing of paper money which inflated the currency and lead to an inevitable crash and depression of fairly short duration. In contrast to Jackson's depression, it worked itself out pretty quickly due to Cleveland's restraint in inserting himself into the dilemma.

Which more or less proves the point. These cycles are inevitable, and even natural to a point. Government interference historically only makes them last longer and/or makes them worse than they would ordinarily be.

But in both of those cases, the economic downturns was caused not by a flaw in capitalism, but through government or political insertion and interference in the economic system.

Ross Wolfe said...

Now I hardly think that Rooseveltian "New Deal"-style social and government programs is preferable to laissez-faire capitalism (insofar as it tended to curb market crises, I actually consider it to be further to the Right than free-market capitalism), but how do free-marketers account for the relative global prosperity and lack of major crises between 1929 and 1973?

Renegade Eye said...

Ross: Chavez mentioning socialism, permanent revolution etc. was a turning point, for the period after the fall of Stalinism. It inspired people throughout the world.

Our job is to take advantage of the opening.

The PSUV is history's largest labor party. There is a fight for its soul, between socialist forces and hacks (reformist and Stalinist).

He has to nationalize the economy under worker's control, or he'll perish. people can't be patient for much longer.

Attention is now on the Middle East. Latin America can't be ignored.

The rightists on this blog, understand the revolutionary situation that was happening, better than you.

Its not about faith in a leader. The issue is the dialectic he unleashed.

Pagan: State capitalist?

JoeC: Keynesianism?

My political ideas are based on Leninist Bolshevism. That's not social democracy in any form.

The Pagan Temple said...

how do free-marketers account for the relative global prosperity and lack of major crises between 1929 and 1973?

GLOBAL prosperity? Really, Ross? Global? Are you talking about the same globe the rest of us have been living on? Are you sure you didn't skip a decade or two here? Maybe those years you listed was a typo?

What prosperity there was existed because the US had a virtual monopoly on world trade and was able to build up its own trade partners, the Europeans and Japanese, and allowed them to actually become competitors over due course of time. That's how we helped them recover from World War II by helping them rebuild their economies. They didn't offer a lot of objections to our presence and influence.

Then there was the oil glut that provided relatively cheap foreign oil for an extended period of time in addition to our own natural resources, which at the time didn't suffer the constraints it does now.

We didn't really have any market competition for an appreciable length of time. If we'd wanted we could have put the Soviets on their knees two decades before we did, maybe quicker. We propped them up too, with agriculture credits. If we'd wanted to we probably could have killed more Russians than Stalin did, just by refusing to give them any business, or assistance, or credits.

But hey. You know all this, don't you?

Ross Wolfe said...

"According to the system of natural liberty, the sovereign has only three duties to attend to; three duties of great importance, indeed, but plain and intelligible to common understandings: first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing [43] an exact administration of justice; and, thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain publick works and certain publick institutions, which it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small number of individuals, to erect and maintain; because the profit could never repay the expence to any individual or small number of individuals, though it may frequently do much more than repay it to a great society."

"In the following book, therefore, I shall endeavour to explain; first, what are the necessary expences of the sovereign or common-wealth; and which of those expences ought to be defrayed by the general contribution of the whole society; and which of them, by that of some particular part only, or of some particular members of the society..."

Both of these quotes are from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, at the conclusion to Book 4. I am not endorsing classical liberalism as the ideal model for political economy or socioeconomic organization; however, I am merely pointing out that even Smith, the high priest of classical liberalism, was aware that it was in the interest of society in general that certain public works and institutions be established for the benefit of all its citizens. In particular, in Book 5, he even recommended that the wealthier and higher-ranking citizens, who are more likely to be able to afford an education on their own, should help pay for the free public education of the common man.

Thersites said...

...and that was primarily due to a recognition, on Smith's behalf, of the pernicious effects of any "division of labour" necessary to generate surplus values (as it would dumb-down the population over time).

Thersites said...

btw - The free education Smith had in mind wasn't a specialist's "university education" either. it was a "general" education (ala primary/secondary school).

Thersites said...

Of course, Smith also didn't envision government's becoming "state capitalists" operating at the beck and call of the AFT and NEA and thereafter corrupting/ politicizing educational institutions (as the Democrats have done since '62 w/SDS's Port Huron Statement).

I think it wasn't until Nietzsche (On the Future of Our Educational Institutions) that THAT particular educational pitfall was identified.

The Pagan Temple said...

Exactly. Smith wanted everyone to receive a basic education based on language, literature, history, math and science. He didn't envision Democratic Party or socialist apparatchiks using public education as an indoctrination tool.

Thersites said...

but how do free-marketers account for the relative global prosperity and lack of major crises between 1929 and 1973?

Easy credit post WWII (Marshall Plan). Before WWII... THAT was the Great Depression, and NOT a period of "relative global prosperity".

Ducky's here said...

Farmer, when did we become a socialist nation? The idea fascinates me.

Thersites said...

We've always been one. It's only recently, however (since the Civil War), that we've decided that it should no longer be voluntary, but that ALL should be FORCED to join it in its' most meaningless and egalitarian form, the mommy state.

The Pagan Temple said...

Ducky-

A more fascinating question would be how exactly are we a capitalist state?

Renegade Eye said...

Pagan: The period between 1929-73, was the most prosperous period in all of history, particularly 1950-73.

Ducky: Good question.

Farmer: After WWII, the US enjoyed the highest prosperity, in all of history.

I wonder what happened to the idea, that the Marshall Plan was to stop communism?

If you think the US is socialist now, your future is bleak.

In Canada many of the Liberal Party moved to the Tory Party. In Canada its Labor (NDP) or Tories. The future in the US is GOP or Labor. Many Democrats will join the GOP or Labor.

Ross: I'm running out of vocabulary, to argue against the idea that the US is socialist.

Social welfare was invented by the right.

Speedy G said...

Farmer: After WWII, the US enjoyed the highest prosperity, in all of history.

It taks time to count up to $61 trillion (+). But now the meal is over and the check has arrived.

Speedy G said...

A more fascinating question would be how exactly are we a capitalist state?

What? And expect the left to thereby acknowledge their complicity and contribution to the status quo? Not likely.

Speedy G said...

Farmer, when did we become a socialist nation? The idea fascinates me.

More on the subject of picking economic winners and loosers and the fashioning of eyeglasses for Plutus (Aristophanes, "Plutus").

The Pagan Temple said...

We might be a "capitalist" state, but we damn sure aren't a free-market capitalist state.

As for how we are socialist, well no we are not socialist by the strictest definition of the term, but we have been governed by progressive ideology for going on a century now.

Minimum wage, universal free education, eight-hour workday, Social Security (and Medicare), and perhaps most important of all, progressive income tax. Add to that inheritance taxes. Environmental regulations, worker's safety regulations, etc., all this stuff is boiler-plate socialism. No its not all bad, some of it individually might even be necessary, but that's beside the point, which is it is socialism. Anybody that denies that is either asleep or purposely lying.

Renegade Eye said...

Pagan: I'm not certain about Ross's definition of socialism, related to commodities. I want to discuss that with others.

Reforms as the 8 hour day, are not by themselves capitalist or socialist. Ross on his blog, wrote about the 8 hr day is related to time being precisely measured under advanced capitalism. Socialism comes into the discussion if you're talking about 30 hrs work/40 hr pay.

SpeedyG: Pretty soon the debt will be in quadrillions. What the heck, they print up paper. Maybe China will be paid back via check.

The Pagan Temple said...

The main point I was making Ren is that the United States is not a free-market capitalist society. That is an important point, because until there is such a free-market society, any of the current capitalism critiques that are bandied about here and other places are inapplicable.

The other so-called failures, such as occurred briefly in the late 1880's and even the Great Depression are also irrelevant as long as they are gauged solely through an anti-capitalist, pro-socialist lens, because no one gets the big picture.

The current problems which we face is not a "crisis of capitalism" so much as it is a result of government interference and crony capitalism.

Capitalism and government bureaucracy do not mix well. It's like oil and water. It might look pretty as hell in the light of the sun, but its actually worthless when you stop to think about it, and if you use it the wrong way it could really screw the pooch.

Ross Wolfe said...

Socialism, as a transitional phase toward stateless, self-governing communism, must use its measures to produce goods not for the sake of exchange-value or the accumulation of capital (self-valorizing value), and must instead produce them first of all with an eye towards society's need for certain products, so that they can best be used. Distribution networks must be established so that the required goods reach the consumers for whom they are intended. In terms of the production process, democratic participation is necessary to determine what the greatest needs of society are in all its locations, so that production might be planned accordingly. The state would need only to coordinate these efforts, nothing more. It needn't become some hideously centralized and grotesque bureaucracy, filled with middlemen, red tape, and apparatchiks. Gradually, with the repetition of these measures and the general increase of society's wealth, the state will become more and more redundant, until it withers away altogether.

The Pagan Temple said...

It needn't become some hideously centralized and grotesque bureaucracy, filled with middlemen, red tape, and apparatchiks.

Maybe it SHOULDN'T become like that but it will and there's nothing to keep it from becoming like that.

Gradually, with the repetition of these measures and the general increase of society's wealth, the state will become more and more redundant, until it withers away altogether.

Pure, unadulterated dream world, pie-in-the-sky bullshit. Ross, if your little world comes about you will be at a crossroads. You'll either adopt and possibly get yourself appointed to a nice cushy position, maybe as a "teacher" or maybe you'll be one of those apparatchiks.

You're other option is you keep preaching the pure ideological path and end up with a bullet to the back of your head for your trouble.

Renegade Eye said...

Pagan: You're not presenting analysis, only ingrained skepticism. Like saying whatever human safeguards we have, nothing will work.

Bureaucracy in the USSR, China and Cuba, had a material basis. Its a subject for books. I would in short say poverty and isolation cause bureaucracy. In the midst of the poverty some have privilege. The US in 2011, is not Russia 1917 or China 1949.

Ross: The rightist way to look at anything is as eternal. If you oppose dialectical materialism, you're left with religion or pragmatism. If Stalinism occurred in the USSR, than it will always occur eternally where there is socialism.

OT: In Pittsburg, a major union endorsed the Campaign for a Labor Party, on the basis of Trumka's statement. It was open ended enough, to allow such a breakthrough.

Ross Wolfe said...

Isolation and poverty did indeed play a large role in the Soviet Union's proliferation of "bureaucratic deformities," as Lenin and Trotskii referred to them. This, combined with the misapplication of Lenin's principle of democratic centralism beyond its intended sphere of usage. Democratic centralism, a high degree of conspiratorial, closed-door planning and legislation, was meant only as a measure to stay alive in a tsarist police-state (which had already infiltrated large parts of the RSDP by 1902) and in the chaos of civil war in Russia and Europe following World War I. Transparency, democracy, and the decentralization of power were to be enacted once things stabilized. The revolution failed to spread, and even then there was a great deal of openness about governmental policies and politics until Stalinism took effect around 1929.

The Pagan Temple said...

Oh, so you guys think we're rich, is that it? Maybe you haven't noticed, but we are in the midst of the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression. We are in debt to the tune of over fourteen trillion dollars. Home values have plummeted. And we have a bureaucracy that is unionized, ingrained and supported by the elected leaders of one party, and its appointed judges.

So let's see you union supporting geniuses come up with a plan as to how to deal with this union Frankensteins monster you have helped to create and help to sustain.

How is it you guys feel about these public sector union employees in Wisconsin employees again? What's that, you say now they should be reined in?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Speedy G said...

Transparency, democracy, and the decentralization of power were to be enacted once things stabilized.

Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

Democracy for the 1 million party members... but a voiceless tyranny for the other 290 million citizens.

Glasnost just ain't what it used to be. ;)

Joe Conservative said...

Transparency, democracy, and the decentralization of power were to be enacted once things stabilized.

"For a hamburger today, I will gladly pay you Tuesday..."

The Pagan Temple said...

Let's just call a spade a spade here. Communism is nothing more nor less than feudalism for the modern era with the landed gentry deposed of their properties and serfs which are then given over to the new owners, the communist hierarchy.

Renegade Eye said...

Later this week, I'm posting an part of a long article by Ted Grant, arguing even Stalinism met people's needs more than capitalism.

Pagan: Stalinism was hardly feudalism. In three generations, an illiterate, rural country, became the second world power. It produced unprecedented growth.

The Pagan Temple said...

It became the second world power with OUR help, and the earlier help of Britain and France. Everything they got they got from us, usually by stealing it. Certain people here and in Europe went out of their way to help them succeed.

Despite the technological advances and military strength, it was by all reasonable criteria a backward country throughout its history. While they were shooting off satellites and rockets to the moon and making thermonuclear devices, people were lining up in the streets on a near daily basis for a loaf of bread. People were dying of famine. City residents were being crammed into substandard housing. Quality of life in general was substandard in comparison with the West.

Is that the shit you're proud of, or is it the fact the state was just strong enough to prevent masses of people from leaving through force and intimidation, the way they accomplished much of everything else they did.

You will note that I said it was feudalism for the modern age. That implies it wasn't exactly your great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather's feudalism, it was just what I said. Feudalism for the 20th century. Get pissed off about it if you want, I'm sticking by it.

That's all communism and socialism is and all it ever was. Feudalism in the modern era only where all property is owned by "the people" manifested through "the state" as opposed to the church or aristocracy. That's the only difference, is who's in control of the system. The Bolsheviks in Russia under the communist regime were the aristocracy. All the people who were non-party members were the serfs. Otherwise, it was the same mess.

Thersites said...

The Soviets cart the entire NAZI rocket program and 90% of their leading scientists off to the gulag and then boast of their "technological prowess"...

Renegade Eye said...

The Soviet issue, will be the topic, later this week.

Ross: Democratic centralism is like a worker's strike. The union has internal debate, and once a decision is made, everyone goes along.

Zinoviev being a pragmatist, who used bureaucratic rather than political/theoretical tactics, had much to do with distorting democratic centralism.