Capitalism and the State
Following the war, state 'planning' developed to a far greater extent, due in large measure to the anti-capitalist upsurge of the working class and, in the colonial countries the upsurge of nationalist feelings.
The rank and file of unions were demanding the carrying out of traditional demands of nationalisation of industries. In Britain, the Labour government which was swept into power carried forward the nationalisation of mines and railways, demands which had been swept through a Labour Party conference before the war ended. In Germany every political party was compelled by the feeling among the mass of people to call for the nationalisation of the powerful combines that had done well out of fascism. The movement was held down by the occupation troops and diverted into the co-determination and consensus joint committees in factories.
State actions assisted the re-constitution of capitalist economies in Europe. In Britain, the nature of nationalisation measures was very clear. They were a response to the radicalisation of the working class but under the prevailing capitalist economy they became a way of preserving capitalism.
The reality of the period since the end of the war finally
and historically registered as utopian the reformist state socialism
theories - that through piece by piece nationalisation, using the capitalist
state, a parliamentary government of Labour would bring about socialism.
Pushed to an election which gave them an overwhelming victory the Labour
leaders were compelled to go ahead with nationalisation. They had used
vague, woolly phrases about socialist change but determined their politics
on adjustments to capitalism..
The nationalisations released locked up capital with very generous terms of compensation. In Post-war Britain, Alam Sked and Chris Cook wrote:
Engels in the nineteenth century pointed out that the contradiction in capitalism between social production and private appropriation compelled the state to intervene. It took over the running of industries, as for example, the capitalist state in certain countries took over the railway system to bring together the capital to construct an infrastructure on which a rising capitalist society could be built.(2) But by pointing to an action by a capitalist state to overcome a contradiction of capitalism in specific circumstances Engels was by no means declaring that here was a tendency that could change capitalism's basic realities by simple evolution.
The central role of state ownership, control or guidance
in a capitalist society, whether under reformist governments or conservative,
has been to assist private capitalism, either immediately or in the
long term. The state serves the dominant class relations. Even in the
most difficult periods for capitalism during the period of war for example
it is individual profit which is dominant in state controls, with the
leading capitalists heading the control body just as the leaders of
industry were the Fuehrers in the German fascist economy.
Thatcherism attacked state intervention while carrying out an offensive against the working class which would have been impossible without state help and state planning. At its centre was the defeat of the unions. That was prepared in Britain by the state legislation and the plans of the state to smash the miners who had been responsible for the defeat of Heath's Tory government in 1972 and 1974.(3)
The dismantling of the Welfare State, the cuts in public
expenditure, the drastic reduction of what had become known as the 'social
wage' thus lowering the floor for wages: all have been carried out by
government legislation with the use of state institutions.
In the past, state assistance has been necessary for
capitalism to develop its infrastructure like railways where immediate
returns on capitalism not forthcoming. Railways and public services,
if they developed under private capital, did so heavily subsidised.
Now, the parastic nature of present-day capitalism means that the state
subsidises private buyers and speculators when it privatises industries.
. In this day and age of capitalism, privatisation has provided a golden
trough for capitalists all over the world. The profitable bonanza from
privatisation, which opened up new profits for capitalist speculators
and 'entrepreneurs', has been impossible without the guarantees and
assistance of the state.
The argument has impressed some Marxists that the state does not have the same role in capitalism because of the development of trans-national companies and of 'globalisation'. The state is a basic essential to capitalism an instrument for protecting the legal foundation of the capitalist property rights and its contracts. It grew under capitalism together with the nation guaranteeing the home market for capitalism and then providing protection and assistance for its overseas trade.The great imperialist powers are Germany, Japan and the US. In all of them their big international combines are closely linked with their state. North American strength and influence economically is bound up with its military and diplomatic might, which time and again clears the way for its powerful businesses. In fact, a great many of the possibilities of these transnationals depend upon the response of their own national state at home and the strength of their own national state in relation to that of the country in which they operate. Many of the operations of these national combines can only take place because with the strength of their national states.
The problems, contradictions and conflicts of the struggle
for profit by the increasingly powerful transnationals have also meant
an increase of national and ethnnic antagonisms and an increase in divisions
between the most powerful nations and their blocs.
The organisations of representstives of nation states - United Nations, GATT, European Union go through increasing conflicts and threats of breaking up.
1. Post-war Britain. Penguin. 1990. Sir Stafford Cripps who had been a leader of the Labour left before the war was then a member of the Labour Government.
2. 'These productive forces themselves
press forward with increasing force to rid themselves of their character
as capital, to the actual recognition of their character as social production
3. See Enemy Within. Seumus Milne. Pan
The secret war against the miners has been
the hidden counterpart to the open struggle by successive Tory governments
against the NUM, a struggle which helped shape the course of British
politics over two decades....