Saturday, October 5, 2019

The New, Old Capitalism (1942)

From the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many attempts have been made by propagandists to explain the dictatorships of Germany, Russia and Italy, and all manage to find some central theme upon which to build their case.

Some say it is the work of evil men (although Stalin is getting a good press now). Some argue a case for a Capitalist anti-labour conspiracy, instancing Italian and German suppression of democrats and socialists.

The Trotskyists formulate a case in which they allege that Russia had her “Socialist” revolution betrayed by Stalin and his bureaucrats, who have turned Lenin’s "dictatorship of the proletariat” into the dictatorship over the proletariat.

Enough has been said to illustrate the diversity of opinion regarding this vexed subject.

The Socialist views Capitalism as one whole cloth which, although woven into different patterns, and sometimes of mixed materials, nevertheless has one basic texture—the exploitation of the workers by a class that lives on the surplus, over and above that which the worker receives as his wages.

Now whether this class is organised as a bureaucracy as in the dictator countries and adopts such nomenclatures as Communists, Fascists, or National-Socialists, it does not detract from the fact that they are eaters of surplus value, and that the system which they have erected is nothing but collective or State Capitalism. The fact that in the dictator countries the population have had no long democratic experience has made it fairly easy for "great leaders” to be swept into power, and to declare a dictatorship. Moreover, it is no mere accident that some 300 million people have been cajoled to accept the Totalitarian method of running capitalism, for implicit in the cry "away with Democracy” has been the imperative drive for war and the "liquidation” of recalcitrant minorities or independent groups, these being described in Russia as wreckers and Trotskyists, and in Italy and Germany as Jews or Communists. Trade unions are merged into the State set-up—one party rules, the party organising the country for "Total War.”

The setting up of State or collective Capitalism has spelt the end of Liberal or laissez-faire doctrine (the right to do what you will with your own), because private property must fall in line with the needs of the State.

The worker under dictatorship finds that whereas he was dismissed, say, for lateness, by a private capitalist, that now a State ordinance decrees that he shall be fined or imprisoned; his "Trade Union” officials are party bosses, and he has lost the legal right to strike or bargain for the sale price of his labour power. He must listen to State propaganda only, and his power to elect representatives of his own choice is limited to a panel put forward by the ruling clique, which allows of no opposition. Such is the necessarily brief sketch of a regimenting capitalism which the workers will one day break with surprising results; the fight will be more for independence and freedom of speech than for mere bread.

The curtain may go up on a stage set for a real leap forward in human endeavour to solve this age old problem of class ownership of the means of producing wealth, with its privileged position for the few, and social inferiority for the many. The workers will see that this jungle we call capitalism can be organised into different forms going under various titles, with appropriate "ideologies” to match, with its protagonists all proclaiming the virtues of their respective set-up using such euphemisms as "A new social order,” "A new civilisation,” or even "The workers’ state,” which only result in a new set of bosses. There are now indeed few more mistakes that the workers can possibly make.

And now, probably, Socialism—the real democracy which has the common ownership of the means of production and distribution as its basis—will become a real live issue.
Frank Dawe

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