Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dictatorships

Financial Times:

A Treasury plan to encourage investors to buy banks’ toxic assets favoured applications from the large asset managers that helped design it, a government watchdog found.

This is the kind of thing about government where you really need a dictatorship of the proletariat! You see, the state is going to "dictate" one way or the other; it does it all the time.

Marx means "government by the people," but that's something industrial capitalism won't permit, so he is assuming a power struggle, with the state dictating one way or the other. You can't just arrive at "government by the people" and expect it to be sustained in equilibrium; certainly not as long as one fragment of the community owns all productive wealth as private property.

What we see repeatedly in our so-called democracy is an uninterrupted dictatorship of wealthy interests and concerns. Policy barely budges from one administration to the next, while the average American's burden grows heavier over time.

The term "dictatorship of the proletariat" acknowledges that the state dictates, and, insofar as we have a state, what it dictates should be "designed" by the working population. But Marx did not believe in statecraft; he simply acknowledged its role within society, and anticipated the need to deal with it in a revolutionary context.

So: this is not an ongoing thing, this "worker's state," but a moment within a conflict when the "expropriators are expropriated." Revolution, in turn, is necessary to reset the natural equilibrium of society; this time with productive wealth the shared property of communities.

5 comments:

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

That's a good read on it.

What about not just recognizing the present existence of the state and its change to a worker's dictatorship... but moving further toward decentralized, balkanized power, descending the power to local levels where real participatory input happens?

Most public Marxists I've read and/or discussed and/or debated with have been so focused on the point of worker's dictatorship that their best historical representative is Mao Tse-Tung. I'm pretty sure humanity can do better than China. Look at what they became in the wake of Mao's revolutionary government's demise.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

also:

I'd suggest China is working right now on a hyper-compressed version of US industrialization. How they handle the problem of saturation with automobiles and houses will be interesting. Will they begin to hypothecate interests exponentially, as America did, creating ever more derivative interests whose actual tangible value is nil?

Probably. And probably it's going to happen much faster there than it did here. Half the time, maybe? Using computers instead of people really speeds things up....

Coldtype said...

I really don't see them making our mistakes given that they have had so much time to observe us. Their steadfast refusal to financialize their economy along the US/UK model for example...

JRB said...

What about not just recognizing the present existence of the state and its change to a worker's dictatorship... but moving further toward decentralized, balkanized power, descending the power to local levels where real participatory input happens?

Well, I think that's Marx, for what it's worth: you want local control, but if you want it to be meaningful, it has to extend into the workplace. It has to be comprehensive local control. You can't have city hall on one hand, and a multi-national owns everything else; city hall will always lose.

On the other hand, just try to establish popular control over the workplace: you will be smashed by the state. So you need a strategy for working towards these things.

Whatever a government calls itself, the global economy is still disciplined by capital. China's development has always reflected that. I think you're right about the hyper-compression; the Soviet Union did the same thing in a different way, but still in an international context with particular requirements. One of the more interesting takes on the USSR comes from the Marxist CLR James, who argued that Stalinism was a political response to the economic requirements for development at the time, at least in the way that the Russian ruling class conceived it.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

JRB - I can see James' argument holding water.

coldtype - Yep, they've watched us but they've also emulated us. "A car in every driveway" as a motive force for "growth" will end up needing hyper-finance capitalism, won't it? Also, look at how China is ignoring long-term eco effects with its liquid, solid and gaseous effluents from industrial activity. That shows they didn't learn from watching us, not on the "don't make the same mistakes" front at least. It seems all China learned was the big bubble of profit, and I'll predict that they'll do the same bubble-pop-new bubble trending we used here, but in compressed fashion.

Just my guess. I'd be pleased to see a different path, but present developments don't suggest it being likely.