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Capitalist Control – How do they do it

From the Kingston Socialist Workers Party – Smarter than your average swappys.
Capitalism, as we have seen, is a class divided society based on exploitation. Under capitalism a tiny highly privileged minority rules over the large majority and lives off their labour. How do they get away with it ?

The answer, as the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci pointed out, is by a combination of force and consent. In reality force and consent are very closely intertwined and mutually reinforce each other, but for the moment I shall discuss them separately.

The element of force is primarily exercised by the state, that network of interlocking institutions – armed forces, police, judiciary, prisons, government bureaucracies etc – which stands over society and claims general authority, including a monopoly of legitimate force.

This state apparatus claims, at every level of its operation, to represent society as a whole – the so-called national or public interest. Hence the perennial assertion by police, judges, generals and so on that they are politically neutral. But the idea of a common national or public interest is a myth. The nation consists of classes, exploiters and exploited with opposed interests, and the society which the state represents is not society as such but specifically capitalist society, based on capitalist property relations and capitalist relations of production. The first duty of the state is to secure the preservation of this capitalist order. and since this order embodies the supremacy of the capitalist class, the state is, in the words of Marx ‘ but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie’.

The class character of the state is reflected in its composition. The upper ranks of the military, the police, the judiciary and the civil service are drawn overwhelmingly from the bourgeoisie and retain economic, family and social ties with that class. But the intrusion into this milieu of the occasional individual from the lower orders changes nothing. On the one hand the actual class position of such an individual is changed by the fact of their promotion and their outlook will tend to change accordingly. On the other hand acceptance of the capitalist mode of operation of the state is the condition of such promotion.

The consequence of the capitalist nature of the state is that force, or the threat of force, underpins almost every aspect of daily life. Consider some examples: a worker goes to work and makes some products. At the end of the day he or she tries to take all or some of them home. The worker will, of course, be forcibly arrested and forcibly detained in a police cell. Or the workers at a factory decide to go on strike, but only ninety per cent of them come out while ten per cent try to continue working. The law, in the shape of a substantial number of police, will immediately arrive at the factory to ensure the scabs’ ‘right to work’. But if the factory bosses decide to close down and make all the workforce redundant, the police will also arrive, this time to ensure that everyone goes home and no amount of appeals to the ‘right to work’ will move them in the slightest.

In all these cases the police will say they are ‘only doing their job’, but that is the point – their job is the enforcement of capitalist exploitation. The examples I have given may seem slightly strange precisely because they are so obvious, so taken for granted, but that is also the point. Capitalist exploitation would not last five minutes without state law, backed by state force, to sustain it.

Most of the time state force remains as far as possible low key and in the background but it comes to the fore the moment there is a real challenge to the interests of the capitalist class. If the challenge comes from abroad this takes the form of war; if the challenge is internal it is met with repression. If the challenge comes from an elected government it can take the form of organizing a military or fascist coup, as happened, for example, with General Pinochet in Chile in 1973 or as has been attempted recently against the Chavez government in Venezuela.

This last point – the potential use of state power on behalf of the bourgeoisie and against the government of the day – is very important. First it completely undermines the official constitutional view (and the view promulgated by political science and taught in the education system) that the state apparatus is subordinate to the elected government. Secondly it raises a key issue in Marxist theory which was ignored or distorted by most supposedly socialist or Marxist parties in the twentieth century.

The strategy of these organizations, beginning with German Social Democracy before the First World War, was to win ‘power’ by means of parliamentary elections, thus acquiring control of the state apparatus which would then be used to construct socialism. But Marx, on the basis of the experience of the Paris commune, had argued that it was not possible for the working class to take over the existing state machine and use it for its own purposes. The existing state was organically tied to the bourgeoisie and could not be used for socialism; rather it had to be broken up – smashed – and replaced by a new state apparatus created by the working class.

Marx’s genuine theory of the state was rediscovered and vigorously reasserted by Lenin in his great book, The State and Revolution. More than that it was put into practice in the Russian Revolution by means of soviet power, i.e. the power of workers’ councils. Later, however, the international communist movement, under the direction of Stalinism reverted to the idea of a parliamentary road to socialism and taking over the existing state apparatus.

But, the objection is often raised, the modern state, with its armies, tanks, bombs, planes etc is too powerful to be smashed, even by the largest mass movement of the working class. This, however, leaves out of the equation the crucial weakness of the state and of all the power of the ruling class which is the fact that for all its operations it depends on the collaboration of a section of the working class. Every gun needs a soldier to carry it, every tank a driver, every plane a team of mechanics. Almost the entire apparatus of the state is staffed, at its lower levels by workers and what happens in a mass revolution is that the pressure leads to many or most of these workers breaking from their officers and joining the people. This is how the state is broken. What this makes clear however is that the final analysis the rule of the bourgeoisie depends not just on force but also on a kind of acceptence.

The Role of Ideology
As we have seen the dominance of the ruling class rests fundamentally on force, exercised first and foremost through the state. However, if it rested on force alone it would be highly vulnerable to overthrow by the working class who constitute the large majority of society. The power of the capitalist class and its state is greatly strengthened by the fact that most of the time it is able to secure an acceptence of its rule from the majority of the very people it oppresses and exploits.

It is the role of ideology to obtain and maintain this consent. Every society has a dominant ideology – a set of ideas, a worldview, which serves to explain, justify and sustain the existing social order and its institutions. It is part of the strength of the dominant ideology in modern capitalist society that, generally speaking , it does not name itself or even acknowledge its own existence . It does not say to people this is ‘capitalist ideology’ and you must believe it all. Rather it presents itself as a series of individual ‘common sense’ propositions which are supposed to be either self- evident or definitively proved by history, like: ‘ Management and workers should work together for the benefit of all’, or ‘ Nobody is above the law,’ or ‘ Obviously, firms have to make a profit’ or ‘There will never be complete equality, it’s against human nature.’

In reality these are not separate ideas but parts of a systematic ideology which, like the state apparatus, serves the interests of the capitalist class. Its basic principle is to depict capitalist relations of production as eternal and unchangeable, and every challenge to capitalism as hopelessly unrealistic and/or downright wicked. But why do those who are disadvantaged by these ideas, namely working people, frequently accept them, at least in part ?

Marx gave a clear answer to this question:
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force in society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. ( The German Ideology)

The means of mental production – the schools, universities, publishers, press and media generally – are today enormously expanded (mass education, TV, radio, film etc) compared to Marx’s day, but they remain almost entirely in the hands of the capitalist class and its state. This means that for the large majority of people almost every item of news, almost all their knowledge of history, of economics, of science, and most of the teaching they receive on morality and religion is brought to them within the framework of capitalist ideology. This cannot fail to have a massive effect on their thinking.

In addition to this bourgeois ideology has the advantage of long tradition and of often appearing , at least on the surface, to reflect reality. For example, firms that fail to make a profit do go out of business and their workers do lose their jobs. And, crucially, just as capitalist ideology legitimizes the state, so the physical force of the state backs up the ideology. As I stated in the last column force and consent interact and reinforce each other. Put this way the real question becomes not why do so many working people accept bourgeois ideas but how can the hold of these ideas be broken?

The great weakness of capitalist ideology is that it fails to correspond to workers’ experience – their experience of exploitation, poverty, unemployment, injustice etc. As a consequence the grip of the ruling ideas is never total. Most working people develop what Gramsci called ‘contradictory consciousness’; they reject some parts of the dominant ideology while continuing to accept other parts of it. For example a worker may display a clear understanding of the class struggle in the workplace but hold reactionary attitudes towards women or migrant workers. At the same time there will be a small minority who break with capitalist ideology as a whole and adopt a coherent socialist and Marxist outlook. This minority is extremely important because in certain circumstances it can win the leadership of many or even the majority of workers whose consciousness remains mixed.

What are these circumstances? First, when the objective conflict of interest between the classes turns into an open struggle such as a strike, especially a mass strike. Second, in conditions of serious economic and/or political crisis, such as a major slump or disastrous war, when the gap between the dominant ideology and reality becomes so wide that its hegemony starts to disintegrate. But above all when these two sets of circumstances coincide. Then it becomes possible for the coherent minority not only to lead the majority of the workers in struggle – on the basis of the progressive side of their consciousness – but also to start to transform the consciousness of the majority into all out opposition to the system.

The element of mass struggle is crucial because the level of workers’ consciousness is closely related to their confidence. The less confidence workers have in their ability to challenge and change the system the more they are likely to accept the dominant ideology, especially those aspects of it , such as racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia etc, which divert their anger and bitterness onto scapegoats. The higher their confidence, the more their horizons widen and they become open to new ideas. In mass struggle they get a sense of their collective power and the advantages of solidarity prove themselves in practice.

Then what becomes decisive is the size, influence and organization of the coherent minority and its ability to give a clear political focus to the anger and aspirations of the masses. It is this combination of circumstances, ideas and action that break both the hold of capitalist ideology and the power of the capitalist state.

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Security & Control By Noam Chomsky

September 15, 2010
America’s strategy for world domination

A Pentagon study released on August 13 expressed government concerns that China is expanding its military forces in ways that “could deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off the coast,” Thom Shanker reports in the New York Times. Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that that the US eliminate military forces that could deny the ability of Chinese warships to operate off American coasts.

Washington is concerned further that “China’s lack of openness about the growth, capabilities and intentions of its military injects instability to a vital region of the globe.” The US, in contrast, is quite open about its intention to operate freely throughout the “vital region of the globe” surrounding China (as elsewhere). It also advertises its vast capacity to do so, with a growing military budget that roughly matches the rest of the world combined, hundreds of military bases worldwide, and a huge lead in the technology of destruction and domination.

China’s lack of understanding of the rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China’s coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing. In contrast, the West understands that such US operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security.

The term “stability” has a technical meaning in discourse on international affairs: domination by the US. The usage is so routine as to pass without notice. Thus no eyebrows are raised when a respected analyst, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explains that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile in 1973, it was necessary to “destabilize” the country by overthrowing the elected Allende government and installing the Pinochet dictatorship, which proceeded to slaughter and torture with abandon and to set up an international terror network that helped install similar regimes elsewhere, always with US backing, in the interest of stability and security.

It is also routine to recognize that US security requires absolute control. The premise was given a scholarly imprimatur in the first book on the roots of George W. Bush’s preventive war doctrine, by the noted Yale University historian John Lewis Gaddis. As he explains, the operative principle is that expansion is “the path to security,” a doctrine he traces admiringly to the great grand strategist John Quincy Adams, the intellectual author of Manifest Destiny. When Bush warned “that Americans must `be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives’,” Gaddis observes, “he was echoing an old tradition rather than establishing a new one,” reiterating principles that presidents from Adams to Woodrow Wilson “would all have understood…very well.”

Wilson’s successors have also understood very well; for example, Clinton, whose doctrine was that the US is entitled to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” with no need even to concoct pretexts of the Bush variety. The US therefore must keep huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security” (Defense Secretary William Cohen). This prescription for permanent war is a new strategic doctrine, military historian Andrew Bacevich observes, later amplified by Bush and Obama.

The traditional doctrine is understandable. As every Mafia Don knows, even the slightest loss of control might lead to unraveling of the system of domination as others are encouraged to follow a similar path. This central principle of power is familiarly formulated as the “domino theory,” which translates in practice to the recognition that the “virus” of successful independent development might “spread contagion” elsewhere, and therefore must be destroyed while potential victims of the plague are inoculated, usually by brutal dictatorships.

According to the Pentagon study, China’s military budget is expanding, approaching “one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” a fraction of the US military budget of course. The concerns are understandable, on the virtually unchallenged assumption that the US must maintain “unquestioned power” over much of the world, with “military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs.

These were the principles established by high-level planners and foreign policy experts during World War II, as they developed the framework for the post-war World, largely implemented. The US was to maintain this dominance in a “Grand Area,” which was to include at a minimum the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, including the crucial energy resources of the Middle East. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. It was always understood that Europe might choose to follow an independent course, perhaps the Gaullist vision of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat, and the issue remains very much alive today as NATO is expanded to a US-run intervention force with particular responsibility to control the “crucial infrastructure” of the global energy system on which the West relies.
Botom-Of-Post - Protest

Hunter, Fisherman, Shepherd, Critic: Karl Marx’s Vision of the Free Individual.

A lot of nonsense is talked about Karl Marx, most of it from people who have never read him. Many consider his work to be discredited by the dictatorial regimes that were set up in his name. But what did Karl Marx actually have to say?  

Was he in favour of dictatorship? Did he think that the state should impose dull uniformity, rigid regimentation and boring work on its citizens? Did he think that human nature and talents should be suppressed in the name of equality and altruism and for the benefit of a collectivity?  

No. In fact, Karl Marx’s driving passion his whole life was the free development of the individual. Karl Marx was not opposed to the capitalist ideas of choice, liberty and individual freedom. He supported these ideas, but opposed the society that prevented them becoming a reality.  

He wanted to be able “to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic”.  

This is the very essence of Marxism. Only through socialism can Karl Marx’s vision of the free individual be achieved.  

SUACS Logo (Wage Slavery)

SUACS Logo (Wage Slavery)

 

Bottom-Of-Post - Anti-Police

Bottom-Of-Post - Anti-Police

 Well its unbelievable – But we’ve had this blog for six months!

Check out our Blog Stats for the first six months.

Hot topics of the month:
Sussex University Student Occupation 2010

https://suacs.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/sussex-university-student-occupation-2010-the-full-story/

Bolton Town Hall Lobbys Home Secretary
https://suacs.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/bolton-town-hall-lobbys-home-secretary-to-ban-edl-rally-later-this-month/

Time For An Anti-fascist Defence League
https://suacs.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/time-for-an-anti-fascist-defence-league/


Hot Weeks:
Week 47
Spotlight On Committees Of Action

https://suacs.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/103/

Week 12
Bolton Town Hall Lobbys Home Secretary To Ban EDL

https://suacs.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/bolton-town-hall-lobbys-home-secretary-to-ban-edl-rally-later-this-month/

Week 13
Spotlight On The Budget

https://suacs.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/spotlight-on-the-budget/

 Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

“The £11 million spent on Labour by the Unite union does nothing else than allow them to kick us in the teeth” said Hannah Sell, deputy leader of the Socialist Party as she opened last night’s launch rally for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, ‘TUSC’ is standing in many constituencies across the country to give voters an alternative to Labour in the general election. Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of the PCS union said “we are all being told to pay the cost of the bosses’ crisis.” This coalition can “restate the idea that another world is possible.”

Last month’s launch rally was attended by more than 300 delegates and a large media presence. Speakers included Karen Reissman, a mental health nurse who was sacked from her job for ‘whistle blowing’ over patient care. She is standing for the Manchester Gorton constituency.

Brian Caton, leader of the Prison Officers Association spoke from the platform as did Dave Nellist, a Socialist Party Councilor standing in Coventry North East. Some of TUSC’s London candidates delivered strong speeches about their campaigns. Steve Hedley, of the RMT London region announced the breaking news of strike action on the railways.

 We won’t pay for their crisis
A key argument from speakers was that billions have been given to the rich bankers, whilst workers and public services are being made to pay the cost. Chris Bough spoke about the propaganda campaign by the media to enforce this injustice.

To laughter in the audience, and in a snub to the media he joked about the number of hedge-fund managers who have recently appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. He said the media had launched a “torrent of abuse” against trade unions, with the British Airways strike being a good example. But he said, “The public are with the unions. They are way to the left of the politicians. 50 per cent of the public don’t think that cuts are necessary”.

Karen Reissman agreed and continued along this theme. “People say to me: we’re glad you’re standing, representing what we think.” She said, “There are millions of people who don’t think they should be made to pay.” Tottenham candidate Jenny Sutton, a college teacher, said that education was a good example of what is happening to public services everywhere. “We are being absolutely hammered.”

We need a new party
Brian Caton said that working class people need a new political party “by the people, for the people. It’s time for socialism to become real. I supported Labour all my life and got nothing in return.”

Dave Nellist also called for a new workers’ party. He said the difference between Labour and the other parties could be reduced to whether the full extent of public sector cuts are brought through in “six years or seven.” “Indeed, last night, Alasdair Darling told the BBC that Labour would cut deeper than Thatcher.”

Nellist went on to say that success for TUSC won’t just be measured by the number of votes, but will “plant it’s flag in the ground – saying that an alternative is possible.” He said that TUSC could be the start to building an “independent trade union and socialist voice.” Hannah Sell said, “This is the modest beginning of something historic. We hope this will start the development of a mass party.”

Some TUSC candidates should do quite well – at least save their deposit. Karen Reissmann and Jenny Sutton (London regional secretary of UCU), for example. Dave Hill of Socialist Resistance is expected to do well in Brighton– And of course Paul Couchman in the Spelthorne constituency in Surrey. If 5-6 candidates save their deposits or do even better, then the pressure for a new party would be very high.

Paul Couchman is a paragon of what a candidate for a new workers’, anti-capitalist party should be. A Socialist Party branch organiser, he is a Unison branch secretary. He has consistently been involved in the community over many years and takes an active part in many local groups. He is the founder of “Save Surrey Services”, and is the founder and organiser of the campaign to save Surrey’s care homes. Paul is well known and respected throughout West Surrey and is known for his campaigning to keep schools and hospitals from closure. 

For an anti-capitalist party!
When the capitalist parties like Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems are about to launch such a huge assault on working class people, it is important that many TUSC candidates and supporters recognise that we need a new party to defend ourselves.

But speakers also made clear that there are many obstacles we will have to overcome to form such a new party. Onay Kasab, a Unison branch organiser standing for Greenwich & Woolwich spoke about how he had been witch-hunted by the Unison leadership. The union is currently victimizing left-wing activists. He told us that a memo had gone round to branch secretaries telling them that to lobby for non-Labour candidates in the general election would result in expulsion from the union. He told a disgusted audience that the Unison orders were “gobs shut for Labour.”  This is a declaration of war by the Unison leadership – vote Labour or else!

Steve Hedley said that the RMT union would only be supporting left-wing Labour candidates, although he admitted that these candidates were standing for the wrong party. He said that we urge left MPs like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to break from Labour.

In doing this, RMT leaders are stepping back from the kind of fight that is necessary for a new party. Some candidates, including the Workers Power candidate in Vauxhall, Jeremy Drinkall, were barred from standing for TUSC because they were standing against ‘left’ Labour MPs (in Vaxhall this is Kate Hoey). PCS leaders have been similar in their procrastinating, whilst the Labour government have been laying the way for civil service job cuts by attacking redundancy pay.

Despite the potential of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, its weakness is that left-wing trade union leaders ultimately have a veto over all the decisions that are made. The launch meeting was very weak on the question of socialism with almost no mention of a goal for the coalition how to achieve it.

The PCS, RMT and other unions outside Labour – along with groups like the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party should have organised a mass conference to decide on the politics and policies of this coalition. They could have used it to galvanise support from workers and youth all over the country who are in struggle against the economic crisis with the explicit aim of forming a new political party to destroy capitalism for good.

This new formation should be federated and it’s members free to belong to other political organisations which support the new party. The branches of such a formation should act as pluralistic campaigning groups, and encompass anarchists, radical environmentalists and syndicalists as well as trades unionists and socialists. In-fact, all those who appreciate that capitalism is not working and that we need to fight for a better future, free from the rule of profit, the threat of war, fascism and global warming.

This has not been done. TUSC drafted its manifesto in secret meetings behind closed doors, asking workers to ‘like it or lump it’. As a result there are major weaknesses with the TUSC programme reducing it to an ‘old Labour’ manifesto seeking to reform capitalism, rather than abolish the rotten system for good.

Such a conference should still be called, to start preparing the ground for a new party. The next few weeks are due to see a huge number of strikes – highly unusual in the run-up to the general election. Why not call for such a conference now and bring in the BA, RMT and British Gas workers, civil servants and teachers who are all taking industrial action to save their jobs? Then socialists could start having the arguments around the kind of action and international solidarity needed to protect the class as a whole. -And begin to build an alternative society with an alternative economy – where workers and communities are the ones who control it.

Almost a year ago, during the G20 demonstration in central London. The police indiscriminately assaulted hundreds of people in an attempt to spark a riot. Hundreds were clubbed and assaulted. One person was murdered. Many others were attacked on their way home, up to half a mile from the demonstration. One, relatively tame incident, was caught on camara. The policeman involved was charged with assault. Today he was acquitted. Below is a Youtube video of the incident. Make your own mind up.- And when you’re at the next demonstration remember: Self defence is no offence. Fight Back!!!! 

 A riot squad officer who allegedly twice hit a female protester with a metal baton has been cleared of assaulting the woman.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUtoOsoDXRA

A riot squad officer who hit a G20 protester twice with a metal baton has been cleared of assault. Metropolitan Police Sergeant Delroy Smellie, 47, clashed with Nicola Fisher outside the Bank of England last April.

The officer, a member of the controversial territorial support group, went on trial accused of assault by beating last week. He was cleared at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. But he could still face misconduct proceedings over the incident. Smellie, who was standing in the dock for the verdict, smiled widely and gave two thumbs up to his supporters as he was cleared.

District Judge Daphne Wickham said there was no evidence that his use of the baton was not approved, correct or measured. She said the officer had a “mere seven seconds” to act and other witness also feared for his safety. She said: “It was for the prosecution to prove this defendant was not acting in lawful self-defence. I have found the prosecution has failed in this respect and the defendant has raised the issue of lawful self-defence and as such is entitled to be acquitted.”

Ms Fisher, 36, ran in front of Smellie hurling abuse during a vigil to mark the death of Ian Tomlinson the previous evening. District Judge Wickham, who heard the case without a jury, watched video footage of the incident and looked at dozens of photographs. Nicholas Paul, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Smellie lost his self-control because of Ms Fisher’s irritating, aggressive and confrontational actions. He said the officer was justified when he shouted at her, pushed her back and struck her with the back of his hand, knocking off her sunglasses.

But Mr Paul said the officer went too far when he struck Ms Fisher across the thigh with the extendable metal weapon, known as an asp. The clash attracted attention worldwide when amateur video footage of it was posted on the YouTube website. Ms Fisher, of Brighton, failed to attend the trial claiming she was suffering depression and did not want to be in the public spotlight again.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUtoOsoDXRA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgE29rxR3ZA&feature=related