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Sunday, June 20, 2010

The state and the people

James Petras has
a new article where he deals with the issue of why US people hates the state. After reading it, it becomes obvious why: the state loads the common citizen with taxes and gives it mostly to the rich, the military-industrial complex, unwanted foreign wars, the hated state of Israel and to pay officers that spit on the face of workers and bow to the wealthy.

It's a most clear case of dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, as described by Marxist classics. There's almost no trace of the redistribution role of the state in favor of those worse off, as you might find in "welfarist" regimes such as those of Scandinavia.

I would have to say that it is exactly the same case in the state of Spain as well, even if the Basque autonomous regions have become exceptional to some extent in order to quell the otherwise endemic social unrest.

As there is no or little anti-state left in the USA (would be called anarchists or autonomists) this hatred of the state plays in the hand of the right, which have a discourse of "less state", even if their praxis is not substantially different.

What interests me most is that, in both the Anarchist (Libertarian) and the Marxist traditions, Communism is defined as the revolutionary stage in which the state is abolished, along with capitalist institutions, essentially private property. The difference between both currents is that Marxists accept a "transitional" role for the state (Socialism), while Anarchists reject it and demand the simultaneous abolition of Capital and state at once, replacing them by social and economical direct democracy at all levels.

The reason why Marxism has been more successful is that, if you are forced to fight, you need an army and hence a state (no difference between both, Machiavelli dixit).

But maybe the unusual situation of the USA may allow for the development, for the first time in history of a true Communist (by whatever name) revolutionary process in which both state and capitalism are confronted together, as the unity they are.

This is what Petras calls for: an anti-state Left movement in the USA.


manju said...

I suppose as long as all nations follow similar economic traditions the more egalitarian countries would suffer (at least in the long run).

Consider the case of India. In some states of India feudalism has been completely abolished and lands have been distributed. However, there are states where such measures have not been taken. This has resulted in state still dominated landed oligarchs who have kept on accumulating wealth. They have even encroached upon economic sphere more egalitarian state by taking over mines, real estate business etc... The fact is the more egalitarian doesn't have this feudal/rich class with enough money. And as I said in South India ultra rich bourgeoisie doesn't exist to take up the complementary role of feudal rich. I don't think this kind of setup is ideal.

I suppose people should be allowed to become rich but should never be allowed to transfer their wealth to the next generation. Is there an economic theory for this position?

Maju said...

"I suppose people should be allowed to become rich but should never be allowed to transfer their wealth to the next generation. Is there an economic theory for this position?"

As Fred Weston mentions re. the USSR bureaucracy and its eventual evolution into capitalist class (see video here), the whole purpose (or at least half of it) of accumulating wealth is to transfer it to your descendants. That's why the bureaucracy recycled itself into bourgeoisie (as predicted by Trotsky).

The whole problem seems to be that, while humankind has evolved in communism (primitive communism, hunter-gatherer societies), where there was no private property and wealth could not be accumulated nor transferred (at least beyond the anecdotal item or the communitarian claim on a territory), since Neolithic or Chalcolithic, the ruling classes (or castes sometimes) have managed to manipulate and force the majority into working for them, either as slaves, "free workers" (proletariat) or hybrid statuses. Some times it has been by bureaucratic control (the so-called "Asian production system" of Sumer and such) but mostly through private actors who are granted the privilege to transfer their accumulated wealth and status to their heirs (aristocrats and bourgeois).

The state has almost invariably been controlled by these.

I don't think it's possible to allow individual enrichment while blockading inheritance, the wealthy will unavoidably (individual exceptions not considered) fight for the inheritance "rights" and sooner than later achieve them.

Only participative economic democracy can, that is: communism, can prevent the parasitism of such greedy minorities, whose projects are at least as destructive as they are "productive".

All this does not mean that implementing communism is easy task, as should be obvious.

manju said...

I suppose as long as all nations follow similar economic traditions the more egalitarian countries would suffer (at least in the long run).

should be read as ...
I suppose unless all nations follow similar economic policies the more egalitarian countries would suffer (at least in the long run).

Maju said...

Important correction the one you made. I'd say I was more in agreement with the previous statement, if anything, because it did suggest that those countries with strongest oligarchies in a Capitalist context would have a competitive advantage. This may or not be real (because the presence of huge feudalized sectors reduce the cultural and hence technological potential, as well as the potential for true market economy, for which is necessary the concurrence of many small actors and not just a few oligopolistic ones) but it's at least suggestive.

The new redaction, implies that advanced socialism would not be competitive against late decadent capitalism, something I cannot agree with. You really need socialism in order to generate and apply economic policies that are in agreement with the much urgent ecological needs of today and also to raise enthusiasm (and not sabotage) from the workers.

I think that in the current stage, socialism can be highly competitive. And that was also probably true to a large extent earlier, as shown by the strong socialist component of the economic policies of every single successful country (excepting maybe Britain and the USA) historically. A state that renounces to dynamize (through policies that are at least pseudo-socialist) its economy becomes a colony. France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and, of course, Russia and China, advanced only because of strong state intervention in the economy, even if in most of these cases the capitalist nature also existed and was dominant. Only states with very peculiar advantages (the two said anglosaxon powers) could to some extent ignore this premise.

They are considered models but what the IMF proposes is more like Somalia in fact. Even the USA today has a strong active intervention, in favor of its national oligarchies.

So, I'd say that an egalitarian system can in principle be competitive. However in the current political conditions, it'd be ostracized, as happens with Cuba, so yes, you are right: the more, the merrier. :)

Va_Highlander said...

Petras is thinking about this far too much. "Working people" in the United States resent the government because, since Ronald Reagan, they have been told that the government is the source of all their problems and that it is, by nature, incapable of solving those problems. It is has more to do with Pavlovian stimulus and response than Marxist critque.

For that matter, I doubt that the number of "working people" that actually resent the government is as large as Petras imagines.