Getting off scot-free

The banks and bankers that triggered or caused the global financial crash with their reckless drive for grotesque profits continue to get away with the consequences of their actions.  The latest fine by US regulators on the Bank of America was a whopping $17bn.  But, as has been pointed out by various bloggers and the Economist, it was not really so whopping.  That’s because of the $17bn fine, for selling misleading mortgages to poor householders and distributing rubbish mortgage bonds to customers and investors, only $9bn is in cash.  The rest is an amount reckoned to be equivalent to revising mortgages for householders in difficulty.  That’s something that should have been done anyway by the banks.  Instead, the US Justice department has done sweetheart deals with the banks so that they can count part of the fine as providing the service they ought to have done before.

The ratio of these corrections to cash is 89% in the case of the Bank of America deal; 44% for the JP Morgan fine of $13bn and 56% for the Citigroup deal of $7bn.  The non-cash element keeps rising in every new deal.  So it seems that bankers can avoid prosecution for offences that have devastated millions of livelihoods (loss of homes, jobs, savings etc) and can get a special deal with the authorities that increasingly does not involve even cash but simply a form of corporate ‘community service’.  It’s time the banks were a public service and not money-making sharks designed to fleece the public (see my posts, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/the-never-ending-banking-story/ and https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/banking-as-a-public-service/).

Not one banker in the US has faced a criminal charge out of the global financial crash while the fines are piddling compared to the estimated trillions of dollars lost by their customers and investors.  And the fines will come out of the profits of the current shareholders, not from the gargantuan salaries and pensions of the chief executives (many of whom have done a runner) or even from the original shareholders.  And the bulk of the settlements will be tax deductible.  For destroying trillions in wealth and thousands of jobs, banks will get a write-off.  And this is after former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, recently described the crisis in the banking system as worse than in the Great Depression: “September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression….Of the 13 most important financial institutions in the United States, 12 were at risk of failure within a period of a week or two.”  This is how far the bankers had destroyed America’s credit system.

The deals with the US Justice Department for JP Morgan or Bank America also mean that all the scandals are buried and won’t be revealed to the public – unlike the scandals revealed with HSBC’s laundering of Mexican drug cartel money or BNP’s laundering of cash for Iran and warlords in Sudan etc – all against US law.  So US bankers are getting off scot-free with not even a slur on their characters, let alone a charge.  After ‘fining’ Bank of America $17bn, the public will not know why.

25 Responses to “Getting off scot-free”

  1. Boffy Says:

    “It’s time the banks were a public service and not money-making sharks designed to fleece the public”

    That assumes that public services under capitalism are not designed to fleece the public. Freeman showed many years ago that in Britain, since WWII, workers have paid more to the state in taxes and national insurance, in every year than they have obtained back in welfare provision. In other words, the capitalist state was making a profit by fleecing the public via the welfare state.

    The state pension is a good case in point. For decades, workers paid into it with no prospect of living long enough to draw a pension from it. Now they are living longer the state insists that they work longer, and have to wait longer to obtain a very poor pension from it in terms of a return on their investment. The UK state pension is paltry compared to the pension provided to Spanish workers at the Mondragon Co-ops, who run their own worker owned and controlled pension fund.

    I doubt, most public sector workers in Britain currently having their wages frozen for yet another year, having seen their own pension contributions rise, and their pension benefits cut, by that state, whilst their jobs are cut, and services to the public slashed, having paid biilions in tax over the years for the provision of those services, share your faith in the capitalist state to act differently than any other capitalist.

    As Kautsky pointed out a century ago, that state does not nationalise things for workers benefits, but for the benefits of capital, it does not provide services for the benefit of workers, but of capital. And, as he pointed out, and as the miners found in 1984-5, the capitalist state is far more powerful, far more able to use its power as an employer to exploit workers than any individual private capital. It is also as a monopoly provider of services able to use that monopoly position more effectively than any private capital in relation to consumers.

    In the 19th century, unions fought against the Truck System, employed by employers whereby a portion of the wage was paid in truck that could only be used in the company stores. Today, the capitalist state operates the welfare state as a gigantic Truck System. Workers are bound by law to accept part of their wages as Truck, in the fact that they have part of their wages forcibly deducted in taxes by the capitalist state, which they can only get back by obtaining various poor quality services from the welfare state. As a monopoly supplier of those services they are able to provide poor quality services, because workers have no choice of supplier, and no means of exercising control over them.

  2. Henry Says:

    The demand for the banks to be brought under national and public control is an integral part of a revolutionary political program. But it would be made as part and parcel of a revolutionary workers party program.

    Though, seen as Boffy thinks we should lend our support to New Labour surely Boffy must call for this policy to be adopted by New Labour?

  3. Boffy Says:

    Henry,

    The demand for the banks to be brought under national and public control is NOT an integral part of a revolutionary program. It is part of a nationalistic, reformist Lassallean/Fabian programme, which is why Marx and Engels opposed such demands for “state aid”, for placing faith in the capitalist state to act in workers interests (See:Marx’s arguments against Lassalle and such demands in the Critique of The Gotha Programme, and Engels opposition to demands for the nationalisation of various industries, and creation of a welfare state in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme.)

    As Trotsky makes clear in the Transitional Programme,any benefit from nationalising the banks, “will produce these favorable results only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.”

    In other words, as with the other transitional demands, it is a demand that only has relevance in an actual revolutionary situation, where the workers are practically in the process of launching a bid to establish a Workers State, and destroy the existing capitalist state.

    It is exactly the same kind of difference as Lenin had to explain in relation to defencism. It is quite a different thing to argue for the defence of a workers state than a capitalist state in the case of war. It is quite a different thing to argue for a Workers State to take over the means of production, as opposed to placing faith in the capitalist state doing so, and to excuse that with pious hopes that this powerful capitalist state will be so benificent as to hand over control of those means of production to the workers rather than use them to exploit the workers and beat them over the head!

    As Trotsky points out in relation to the demand for Workers Control, it is again only a revolutionary demand when the workers themselves are taking over the means of production in a revolutionary situation. Otherwise it is a mere reformist deception, as is the demand for nationalisation.

    “Boffy thinks we should lend our support to New Labour”. No I don’t, any more than I think we should “lend our support” to the right-wing reformist policies of the Trade Union bureaucrats. But, I do believe that Marxists should be members of Trade Unions, and members of the Labour Party, because that is where the workers are, and we have a duty to stick with the workers, and help them build more adequate structures, and develop more adequate political solutions!

    Its why Marx and Engels joined the German Democrats, an openly bourgeois party, and why Engels was advocating such an approach to US Marxists to the end of his days.

  4. Henry Says:

    It isn’t a demand but a proposal, a promise if you like, that when the workers take power the banks, large scale industry, farming, the state etc will be brought under public control – though these questions, particularly land, dependent upon time and place obviously.

    So the party that represents the workers (New Labour as you believe) should have this proposal in their overall program. You should be arguing within New Labour for banks to be brought under public control. You should be arguing for revolutionary changes.

    These proposals don’t wait for the fabled revolutionary situation to occur but form part of the natural program of proposals based on capitalist development and its replacement with an higher form, namely socialism.

    Marx and Engels understood this, denying this is simply revisionism.

    I can accept that if you lose the debate and New labour go into battle armed with its business friendly and reformist platform then you have to campaign for that platform but in the day to day battle socialists should be arguing for the revolutionary platform.

  5. Boffy Says:

    “I can accept that if you lose the debate and New labour go into battle armed with its business friendly and reformist platform then you have to campaign for that platform but in the day to day battle socialists should be arguing for the revolutionary platform.”

    Not at all. The whole point about democracy, is that you retain the right to argue your own position where you disagree with the majority position. That is why I do argue for a revolutionary programme as Marx and Engels did, of arguing for the workers themselves to take over the means of production here and now, by setting up co-operatives, and forms of democracy and state appropriate to that co-operative property!

    “It isn’t a demand but a proposal, a promise if you like, that when the workers take power the banks, large scale industry, farming, the state etc will be brought under public control – though these questions, particularly land, dependent upon time and place obviously.”

    Marx argued against the German socialists putting in their programme demands for such action by the capitalist state, such as state aid, precisely because he recognised that winning elections is not the same as the workers establishing their own class state in opposition to the existing capitalist state. On the same basis Engels opposed the SPD putting in its Erfurt Programme the demand for the nationalisation of various industries, and the establishment of a welfare state and national insurance.

    “These proposals don’t wait for the fabled revolutionary situation to occur but form part of the natural program of proposals based on capitalist development and its replacement with an higher form, namely socialism.”

    But if they are not based on demands that can only be implemented after such a socialist revolution when the workers have smashed the capitalist state and established their own in its place, they are simply reformist demands that sow illusion in the minds of workers that simply by winning an election such policies could be implemented, and a class neutral state would simply sit back and assist!

    “Marx and Engels understood this, denying this is simply revisionism.”

    On the contrary, as stated above, Marx and Engels opposed such nationalistic and reformist demands, which amount to Socialism being created over the workers heads, and assume the notion of a class neutral state. They argued instead for workers to take matters into their own hands, and to create Socialism from the bottom up, by establishing their own worker owned and controlled co-operatives, to combine them within a co-operative federation, and to develop their own self-government separate from that of the capitalist state – which is why Marx in his programme for the First International argued for Direct taxes, because in that way, workers could see how much the state was ripping them off, and oppose its further expansion.

    “Because indirect taxes conceal from an individual what he is paying to the state, whereas a direct tax is undisguised, unsophisticated, and not to be misunderstood by the meanest capacity. Direct taxation prompts therefore every individual to control the governing powers while indirect taxation destroys all tendency to self-government.”

  6. Boffy Says:

    By the way, despite what I said previously, you write,

    “So the party that represents the workers (New Labour as you believe)”

    I have never said that Labour represents the workers, certainly not the interests of workers. It represents the interests of big industrial capital, which is the function of all social democracy. In that respect it is the same as the trades unions. They also do not represent the workers or their interests, but are similarly organisations of workers dominated by bourgeois ideology, of the need to bargain within the existing system, as Marx and Lenin and Trotsky and others described.

    The reason that Marxists should be members of these organisations is not because they represent the workers, or workers interests, but because they are workers organisations! Of course, sectarians could not possibly join organisations of workers that did not already have a fully developed Marxist world outlook – that is agree with that specific breed of sectarian – which is why over the last century they have become ever more distanced from the workers, and are only able to intervene by tokenistically raising “revolutionary demands” that are totally unrelated to resolving the immediate problems of workers, or of building that workers self-government and self-activity that Marx centred his demands upon.

  7. Henry Says:

    “Not at all. The whole point about democracy, is that you retain the right to argue your own position where you disagree with the majority position. ”

    Well this differs from the ‘winning the battle for democracy’ position you have put forward in the past. In the past you have said socialists should join New labour, get the ear of workers and argue for Marxists ideas (educate workers) but that when elections come around socialists should fight to win that election for New labour.

    “Marx argued against the German socialists putting in their programme demands for such action by the capitalist state, such as state aid”

    You keep mentioning state aid by the capitalist state. I am not talking about this. I am talking about the socialist platform and the revolutionary development, as expressed by Marx –

    “to convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour, general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves”

    So the transfer of state power to the workers is the mechanism to transform society. Without it everything else remains a reform.

    “But if they are not based on demands that can only be implemented after such a socialist revolution when the workers have smashed the capitalist state and established their own in its place, they are simply reformist demands that sow illusion in the minds of workers”

    This is a revisionist position. As can be seen from the quote by Marx above, the fact of the workers taking control of the workers state is the thing that qualitatively starts the revolutionary process.

    “They argued instead for workers to take matters into their own hands, and to create Socialism from the bottom up, by establishing their own worker owned and controlled co-operatives, to combine them within a co-operative federation, and to develop their own self-government separate from that of the capitalist state”

    This is what Marx said about co-operatives (though I accept he envisaged a role for them) –

    “Restricted, however, to the dwarfish forms into which individual wages slaves can elaborate it by their private efforts, the co-operative system will never transform capitalist society”

    He then gives the answer to what will transform capitalism, the answer being “general social changes…. by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power” or –

    “This can only be effected by converting social reason into social force, and, under given circumstances, there exists no other method of doing so, than through general laws, enforced by the power of the state. In enforcing such laws, the working class do not fortify governmental power. On the contrary, they transform that power, now used against them, into their own agency. They effect by a general act what they would vainly attempt by a multitude of isolated individual efforts.”

    Engels also wasn’t ready to wait for the fabled revolutionary situation –

    “Its crucial difference from the present order consists naturally in production organized on the basis of common ownership by the nation of all means of production. To begin this reorganization tomorrow, but performing it gradually, seems to me quite feasible.”

  8. Boffy Says:

    “Well this differs from the ‘winning the battle for democracy’ position you have put forward in the past. In the past you have said socialists should join New labour, get the ear of workers and argue for Marxists ideas (educate workers) but that when elections come around socialists should fight to win that election for New labour.”

    What I’ve argued is that at elections we call on workers to vote Labour. That does not at all mean giving up a critique of the policies of the labour leaders. In 1979, that position was adopted by the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory. I argued a similar position in 2010! But, I’m not enthralled by elections. I take the same position as Lenin, they are periods of heightened political activity and discussion that enable Marxists to have a wider audience amongst workers than at other times, precisely to put over these perspectives. But, I am far more interested in workers taking action themselves to change their conditions than expecting that to happen as a result of an election. Winning the battle of democracy is precisely what that is about.

    “You keep mentioning state aid by the capitalist state. I am not talking about this. I am talking about the socialist platform and the revolutionary development, as expressed by Marx”

    But, for now it is a capitalist state that exists and so any question of nationalisation etc. can only be done by that state. You can’t have it both ways, either its a demand to be raised now, which means it must be done by the existing state, or it is something that is to be done by a workers state at some distant point in the future after the revolution!

    “So the transfer of state power to the workers is the mechanism to transform society. Without it everything else remains a reform.”

    Not at all, because your formulation here is not dialectical. Marx and Engels make clear that the real revolutionary transformation is one achieved by the workers themselves, who take over the means of production, and establish co-operative production. In Capital III, Marx sets out the basis of how they do that. It is not by first taking control of the state.

    “The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.”

    If Marx envisages the process being one of the workers taking state power first and then using it to transform the means of production there would be no need to use credit to effect this change. Marx’s view also expressed in his Inaugural Address to the first International is that the workers embark on this process, and do so via a national co-operative federation as directly proposed by Ernest Jones to the Co-operative Conference. As the capitalists oppose this transformation by all possible means, the workers are led to develop their own party, and engage in a political struggle for power. Its only on the basis of this transformation of the nature of the working-class in which it becomes fit to assume the role of ruling class that it establishes its own state in opposition to that of the capitalist state.

    Even then as Engels set out in his letter to Bebel their vision was that co-operatives would be the vehicle for the process of transformation for a long time, and the state would only act as a sort of holding company. It would not in any real sense be “state property”, and could not be as they envisaged the workers state itself withering away.

    Your view is both undialectical and anti-materialist in the same sense that was true of the Lassalleans, because you are wanting to propose a workers state arising without the material basis of that workers state having been created first. You are giving the state a life of its own that Marx says cannot exist.

    “The German Workers’ party — at least if it adopts the program — shows that its socialist ideas are not even skin-deep; in that, instead of treating existing society (and this holds good for any future one) as the basis of the existing state (or of the future state in the case of future society), it treats the state rather as an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.”

    “This is a revisionist position. As can be seen from the quote by Marx above, the fact of the workers taking control of the workers state is the thing that qualitatively starts the revolutionary process.”

    No its your position that is revisionist, as the quotes from Capital, the Inaugural Address, the Critique of the Gotha programme demonstrate.

    That is a distortion of what Marx says in that quote. In the Inaugural Address he begins by saying that the development of the co-operatives was the most important event that had occurred. He goes on to say that in order to overcome the restrictions you mention they have to be developed by national means. Those national means have been described above. Firstly, the development of a co-operative federation, and secondly the use of credit. The completion of the process having won state power can then be effected via the state.

    Prior to your quote he says,

    “We acknowledge the co-operative movement as one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism. Its great merit is to practically show, that the present pauperising, and despotic system of the subordination of labour to capital can be superseded by the republican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers.”

    He goes on after the quote you have extracted,

    “We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative production rather than in co-operative stores. The latter touch but the surface of the present economical system, the former attacks its groundwork.”

    The further quote you give is again taken out of context, and is about Education not nationalisation. But again, Marx makes clear his opposition to the state having any role in education other than establishing these general rules on minimum standards etc. In the Critique of the gotha programme, he writes,

    “”Elementary education by the state” is altogether objectionable. Defining by a general law the expenditures on the elementary schools, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the branches of instruction, etc., and, as is done in the United States, supervising the fulfillment of these legal specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing from appointing the state as the educator of the people! Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school. Particularly, indeed, in the Prusso-German Empire (and one should not take refuge in the rotten subterfuge that one is speaking of a “state of the future”; we have seen how matters stand in this respect) the state has need, on the contrary, of a very stern education by the people.”

    And describing the position you are arguing he writes,

    “But the whole program, for all its democratic clang, is tainted through and through by the Lassallean sect’s servile belief in the state, or, what is no better, by a democratic belief in miracles; or rather it is a compromise between these two kinds of belief in miracles, both equally remote from socialism.”

    “Its crucial difference from the present order consists naturally in production organized on the basis of common ownership by the nation of all means of production. To begin this reorganization tomorrow, but performing it gradually, seems to me quite feasible.”

    And who would do this reorganisation other than the workers themselves, which is precisely why it would be conducted gradually, because it requires that the workers themselves are prepared and able to do it, and not that it is conducted on their behalf by a state standing above them.

  9. Tony Says:

    What useless gasbags! Not a single word between the two of you about actual working class struggle – about how, for example, the Ritzy strikers can win
    If you turn up on the picket line with the abstract garbage you churned out here nobody will take you seriously, and quite right too

  10. Boffy Says:

    Why does it have to be one or the other. I have been an active trade unionist since I left school at 16!. I was sacked from my first job not many months later for such activity. I was a shop steward at 19, and went to the ASTMS annual conference as a branch delegate with my wife for our honeymoon.

    In 1984 I was the Secretary of the local Miners Support Committee, and organised a mass picket of one of the local mines. Every day I was on at least one picket line of local collieries, which is why I have a 12 monthers badge from the local NUM. I also got my local LP to introduce a weekly 50p levy of all it members, which I collected along with a member of the branch who was a miner.

    In 2005 and 2006, I was President of the local Trades council, and sat on the regional Council of the TUC. During that time I was also arrested while picketing the local Co-op furniture store, demanding they stopped selling Silentnight beds, after their workforce had been sacked. That is on top of supporting both as an a active trade unionist and LP member every local strike that took place, of being kicked out of the Labour group of the City Council in 1983, for refusing to vote for a rent rise, and resigning from the Council in 1984 rather than vote for cuts. It is in addition to going to support workers in struggle across the country, for example at Grunwicks.

    In the years before I retired, I was Branch Secretary of my UNISON branch.

    Marxists have a duty to support workers in struggle, and its one reason also to be in the LP to use its structures and ability to talk to a wider audience of workers so as to turn it outwards towards supporting such struggles. But, as Marx points out these struggles in themselves go nowhere, they simply reinforce the idea of bargaining within the system. Workers need a political solution rather than simply continually fighting the same battles over and over again. That again is a reason to be a member of the party those workers have created, despite all its inadequacies, so as to try to develop alongside them a more adequate political response.

  11. Henry Says:

    Tony,

    I was on strike in July, I am due to be on strike again in October. If i give you the details maybe see you there and we can high five each other?

  12. Henry Says:

    None of my quotes were taken out of context, you would have to specifically explain why rather than just assert it.

    This wasn’t taken out of context –

    “to convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour, general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves”

    That quote is not about education but about the revolutionary transformation of society.

    This quote is not taken out of context –

    “Restricted, however, to the dwarfish forms into which individual wages slaves can elaborate it by their private efforts, the co-operative system will never transform capitalist society”

    This was actually Marx’s view of co-operatives. The whole point of this quote by Marx is to show the importance of taking state power!

    Now onto your comments:

    “But, for now it is a capitalist state that exists and so any question of nationalisation etc. can only be done by that state.”

    The idea is to change the ‘for now’ to something different. The idea is to not accept the ‘for now’ but look to change it.

    “which means it must be done by the existing state, or it is something that is to be done by a workers state at some distant point in the future after the revolution!”

    I would expect one of the very first actions of a revolutionary workers party would be to bring the banks under national control. Whether that happens today, tomorrow or has to wait for the fabled revolutionary situation. But the workers have to know this is the position of the socialists. We must say to them, when under the banner of socialism this would happen. I don’t think a century of working class defeats means this part of the program is historically now invalid. On the contrary, recent events have made the point ever more starkly.

    “It would not in any real sense be “state property”, and could not be as they envisaged the workers state itself withering away.”

    Ok it is not really appropriate to say a ‘workers state’ as such, it would be better to say: using the central power of the state to enact the ‘general social changes’ as Marx formulated it.

    “Your view is both undialectical and anti-materialist in the same sense that was true of the Lassalleans, because you are wanting to propose a workers state arising without the material basis of that workers state having been created first.”

    What is undialectical is believing that workers cannot use the existing state power to enact general social changes. The very basis of the dialectic is built on resolving such contradictions.

    “Instead of treating existing society (and this holds good for any future one) as the basis of the existing state (or of the future state in the case of future society), it treats the state rather as an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.”

    This would actually apply more to those who don’t propose taking the power of the state into workers hands. It is precisely because the state isn’t neutral that it is imperative for socialists to take it in order to enact general social changes.

  13. Boffy Says:

    ““This can only be effected by converting social reason into social force, and, under given circumstances, there exists no other method of doing so, than through general laws, enforced by the power of the state. In enforcing such laws, the working class do not fortify governmental power. On the contrary, they transform that power, now used against them, into their own agency. They effect by a general act what they would vainly attempt by a multitude of isolated individual efforts.”

    This quote is about Education. It is in section 4 of the programme of the First International dealing with child labour and education. It is about setting minimum standards for education.

    This quote,

    ““to convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour, general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves”

    is precisely what it says, the transfer of control of the means of production to the workers. It is fully consistent with Marx and Engels demand for the establishment of self-government by the workers. It is consistent with the development of co-operatives by the worker themselves, rather than by the imposition from above of state control. Its why Engels wrote, opposing your Lassallean state socialist ideas,

    ““Here I want to draw attention to the following: These points demand that the following should be taken over by the state: (1) the bar, (2) medical services, (3)pharmaceutics, dentistry, midwifery, nursing, etc., etc., and later the demand is advanced that workers’ insurance become a state concern. Can all this be entrusted to Mr. von Caprivi? And is it compatible with the rejection of all state socialism, as stated above?”

    You say,

    “This was actually Marx’s view of co-operatives. The whole point of this quote by Marx is to show the importance of taking state power!”

    Who doubts the importance of taking state power? The whole point is about how you arrive at the potential for doing so!!! Building the economic and social power of the workers, by building co-operatives and developing workers self-government as the logical corrollary of that form of property, is precisely the means of transforming the material conditions required to change the consciousness of workers, and create the conditions for building a workers state in opposition to the capitalist state, and thereby launching a bid for power.

    You say,

    “The idea is to change the ‘for now’ to something different. The idea is to not accept the ‘for now’ but look to change it.”

    But you give no indication of how to change it other than ultimatistic demands for Lassallean style nationalisation.

    You say,

    “I would expect one of the very first actions of a revolutionary workers party would be to bring the banks under national control. Whether that happens today, tomorrow or has to wait for the fabled revolutionary situation. But the workers have to know this is the position of the socialists. We must say to them, when under the banner of socialism this would happen.”

    Why should the workers wait until then? Why should not the workers now simply take over the banks themselves? Why not argue for the workers now to occupy and establish their own workers control over those banks, as with any other enterprise or industry they can do so with? Why wait until such time when a state standing above the workers has to carry out these tasks rather than as marx and Engels propose, the workers themselves acting to liberate themsleves and create the new society?

    You go on.

    “We must say to them, when under the banner of socialism this would happen.”

    But this is anti-Marxist, because Marx makes clear that it is not up to Marxists to give prescriptions to workers about how the future would be. Its why he wouldn’t even prescribe what type of co-operatives workers should build other than suggesting they build co-operative production rather than stores. Its because Marx believed that it was up to the workers to create their own future, not for it to be dictated to them from on high by the state.

    You continue,

    “Ok it is not really appropriate to say a ‘workers state’ as such, it would be better to say: using the central power of the state to enact the ‘general social changes’ as Marx formulated it.”

    But this is not right either. Its not because a Workers State is a semi-state that this would not in any sense be state property, it is because as Engels makes clear, the only function of the state here is to act as a holding company, not at all as in any sense a controlling body. Engels writes,

    “And Marx and I never doubted that in the transition to the full communist economy we will have to use the cooperative system as an intermediate stage on a large scale. It must only be so organised that society, initially the state, retains the ownership of the means of production so that the private interests of the cooperative vis-a-vis society as a whole cannot establish themselves.”

    You say,

    “What is undialectical is believing that workers cannot use the existing state power to enact general social changes. The very basis of the dialectic is built on resolving such contradictions.”

    Which is Bernsteinian revisionism pure and simple. The whole idea of “resolving contradictions” here smacks of reformist bargaining within the system. The whole point for revolutionaries is not to seek to control or take over the existing state, but to smash it as Lenin sets out In State and Revolution.

    You continue,

    “This would actually apply more to those who don’t propose taking the power of the state into workers hands. It is precisely because the state isn’t neutral that it is imperative for socialists to take it in order to enact general social changes.”

    Again Bernsteinian revisionism pure and simple. You see the state as simply some kind of vessel that can be filled with different class content, rather than what it is, which is an instrument of class rule, whose very nature is determined by the class whose rule it protects. As Lenin sets out clearly in State and Revolution vilifying the argument you put, this State cannot be “take(n) in order to enact general social changes.” It has to be smashed, and a new Workers State has to be created to replace it!

    “Consequently, in speaking of a “real people’s revolution”, Marx, without in the least discounting the special features of the petty bourgeois (he spoke a great deal about them and often), took strict account of the actual balance of class forces in most of the continental countries of Europe in 1871. On the other hand, he stated that the “smashing” of the state machine was required by the interests of both the workers and the peasants, that it united them, that it placed before them the common task of removing the “parasite” and of replacing it by something new.” (State and revolution)

    But, that state cannot be simply sucked out of the thumb. The capitalist state evolved over centuries along with the economic and political advance of the bourgeoisie, and did so in consonance with the specific requirements of capital, and the social relations that develop on the basis of capitalist production. the basis of this new state is the Commune, but the Commune itself can only arise on the basis of workers developing their own self-government, and the material basis of workers self-government is workers ownership of means of production via co-operatives, and the development of the associated organs of workers democracy in the trades unions, friendly societies, and the Workers party.

  14. Henry Says:

    Marx and Engels never really talked about smashing the state, this was an interpretation of their view. For Engels the state is ‘not abolished’ but ‘dies out’. And for Marx and Engels the proletariat “turns the means of production in the first instance into state property”.

    A workers state will not grow outside the existing state, in parallel and opposition to it. The dialectical movement will be that the workers state will grow out of the existing state. And use its infrastructure and authority. State Authority is something that exists, and is a product of history and comes to be recognised.

    The state is a vehicle for class rule, a place where order resides. So the state exists where the classes are not reconciled. Now the conclusion to be drawn is that until socialism abolishes class antagonism the power of the state to enforce class rule is required. And in this case the ruling power is the proletariat.

    Engels imagines –

    “society, which will reorganize production on the basis of a free and equal association of the producers, will put the whole machinery of state where it will then belong: into a museum of antiquities,”

    If you bring this together with the idea of –

    “ the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves”

    We see the dialectical motion. Note how Marx says transfer of state power and not smashing of state power. You can’t smash something you have no control of! So the first movement is to get that state power in the first place. The next step is to use that state power to enable the dominance of the proletariat and facilitate the –

    “conversion of social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour”

    Via –

    “general social changes”

    which will –

    “never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves”

    To say otherwise is revisionist.

    “But, that state cannot be simply sucked out of the thumb. The capitalist state evolved over centuries along with the economic and political advance of the bourgeoisie, and did so in consonance with the specific requirements of capital, and the social relations that develop on the basis of capitalist production. the basis of this new state is the Commune, but the Commune itself can only arise on the basis of workers developing their own self-government, and the material basis of workers self-government is workers ownership of means of production via co-operatives”

    This is not the materialist development sketched out by Marx and Engels, or is very one sided. i.e. it focuses on the development of a proletariat ‘fit for purpose’ but ignores the actual development of capitalism itself. I.e. capitalism centralizing and concentrating power, means of production etc. Workers taking over this state power and turning the means of production in the first instance into state property.

    Your belief that “the material basis of workers self-government is workers ownership of means of production via co-operatives” is a direct contradiction of the materialist analysis of Marx and Engels and a direct contradiction of scientific socialism, as articulated by Marx and Engels.

    The best sketch of this I know of is this section from Anti-Dühring:

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch24.htm

  15. Boffy Says:

    Are you just making all this up as you go along? It certainly seems that way, and is not based on any kind of understanding of Marxism it seems.

    Marx and Engels certainly did speak about smashing the existing state, as the quote from Lenin above indicates.

    In the 18th Brumaire, Marx writes,

    “ All revolutions perfected this machine instead of breaking it. The parties, which alternately contended for domination, regarded the possession of this huge state structure as the chief spoils of the victor.

    But under the absolute monarchy, during the first Revolution, and under Napoleon the bureaucracy was only the means of preparing the class rule of the bourgeoisie. Under the Restoration, under Louis Philippe, under the parliamentary republic, it was the instrument of the ruling class, however much it strove for power of its own.”

    Your statement,

    “For Engels the state is ‘not abolished’ but ‘dies out’.”

    shows you really have no idea what you are talking about, because Engels here is talking about the dying out of the Workers State, which is necessarily something quite different from the existing state, the capitalist state you want to utilise! It is no more possible for workers to utilise the capitalist state, whose purpose is to exploit them, and to oppress them, which you seem to think is possible simply as a result of, and confuse with the winning of elections, i.e. merely winning control of parliament, not the State, than it is possible to turn a car into a motor bike by replacing a car driver with a motorbike rider!

    You say,

    “A workers state will not grow outside the existing state, in parallel and opposition to it. The dialectical movement will be that the workers state will grow out of the existing state. And use its infrastructure and authority. State Authority is something that exists, and is a product of history and comes to be recognised.”

    Which is unadulterated Bernsteinian revisionism. It has absolutely nothing to do with Marxism. Of course, a Workers state develops outside the existing state and in opposition to it. That is precisely what Marx describes in the Critique of the Gotha Programme in The Civil War in France and so on. It is precisely what develops into a situation of dual power, it is precisely the development that marx describes in the Communist Manifesto of how the capitalist state itself developed over centuries in opposition to the feudal state, and before it smashed that latter.

    You say,

    “Now the conclusion to be drawn is that until socialism abolishes class antagonism the power of the state to enforce class rule is required. And in this case the ruling power is the proletariat.”

    I agree, but it does so via a Workers State, not via the existing capitalist state, which it must first smash! Even when the Bolsheviks thought they had smashed their capitalist state, they found the problem with the line you are peddling, which was that because the workers had not yet developed into a sufficient force to become ruling class in its own right, had not developed experience in its own self-government, the Bolsheviks had to rely on elements of the old capitalist state they thought they had smashed, and those elements frustrated them at every step of the way! Far from acting as the means of transforming society, those elements acted as an organising centre for counter-revolution. Allende found the same problem with adopting the kind of reformist agenda you suggest in Chile, it cost him and thousands of Chilean workers their lives.

    You then make the ridiculous statement,

    “You can’t smash something you have no control of! ”

    Really? I see people smash things they have no control of all the time on demonstrations. The whole point of a political revolution is the smashing of the existing state, in order to replace it with your own!

    You say,

    “The next step is to use that state power to enable the dominance of the proletariat and facilitate the”

    But, if the workers are not already dominant, that dominance cannot be handed to them from on high by the state! The whole point as Marx sets out in the Critique is that the state is a reflection of the power relations in civil society. That is what he means by winning the battle of democracy.

    After cobbling together a series of unrelated statements you then proclaim.

    “To say otherwise is revisionist.”

    Rather rich, given that your whole confused ramble here is revisionist from start to finish! The idea that the process is for some group of unspecified socialists to obtain control of the state, (and you do not specify even how this is to come about without a revolutionary change in the consciousness of workers, the process for which you have again not specified) and then bring Socialism to the workers from on high, by transforming society on their behalf is elitist, utopian, revisionist, reformist and ultimately Stalinist. It is the same approach as that of Lassalle, who marx labelled the model of the Workers Dictator, and of the Lassallean approach, of which Marx wrote,

    “In place of the existing class struggle appears a newspaper scribbler’s phrase: “the social question”, to the “solution” of which one “paves the way”.

    Instead of arising from the revolutionary process of transformation of society, the “socialist organization of the total labor” “arises” from the “state aid” that the state gives to the producers’ co-operative societies and which the state, not the workers, “calls into being”. It is worthy of Lassalle’s imagination that with state loans one can build a new society just as well as a new railway!

    From the remnants of a sense of shame, “state aid” has been put — under the democratic control of the “toiling people”…

    Second, “democratic” means in German “Volksherrschaftlich” [by the rule of the people]. But what does “control by the rule of the people of the toiling people” mean? And particularly in the case of a toiling people which, through these demands that it puts to the state, expresses its full consciousness that it neither rules nor is ripe for ruling!”

    And he goes on to illustrate that it is precisely because the workers themselves, and not the state bring about this revolutionary change from the bottom up, by creating the co-operatives that makes it progressive as opposed to your top down statist, reformist view.

    “That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois.”

    The same point was made later by Trotsky who describes your approach as a deception of the workers.

    “It would of course be a disastrous error, an outright deception, to assert that the road to socialism passes, not through the proletarian revolution, but through nationalization by the bourgeois state of various branches of industry and their transfer into the hands of the workers’ organizations.”

    The description of the development of the political power of a class and of the development of state forms appropriate to its social relations is taken straight from the Communist Manifesto.

    “Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune(4): here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

    Marx’s description of the fact that what a Workers State would look like, was unknown, followed by his recognition that the Paris Commune resolved that question, in the shape of the Commune State, which arose in opposition to the existing state, is consonant with that description of the process.

    You say,

    “Your belief that “the material basis of workers self-government is workers ownership of means of production via co-operatives” is a direct contradiction of the materialist analysis of Marx and Engels and a direct contradiction of scientific socialism, as articulated by Marx and Engels.”

    Which is odd given that Marx and Engels argued for workers to establish co-operatives for exactly that purpose, that Marx argued for workers to develop their own social and welfare provision via their Friendly Societies, and he and Engels opposed measures such as the creation of Welfarism by the capitalist state, precisely because it undermined that self-government. Its also why Marx advocated Direct taxation so that workers would limit the ability of the state to grow by sucking increasing amounts of tax out of them, which again would undermine that self-government. Odd also given that Marx in Capital says that these co-operatives are the transitional form of property on the way to Socialism, and that Engels says that he and Marx envisaged their use on an extended scale and for a protracted period on the road to Socialism.

    Engels in anti-Duhring does indeed get to the heart of it, and contradicts your position when he writes,

    “But the transformation, either into joint-stock companies, or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies this is obvious. And the modern state, again, is only the organisation that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the general external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head.”

    In other words, Engels is quite clear in understanding that there is nothing socialist about this state ownership. Ownership by the capitalist state is just a more effective means for capital to exploit the workers, because that state is merely “a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit.” Hardly a ringing endorsement of your position is it that?

    Unfortunately, Engels envisaged that the workers organised in their workers party, and able to compare their exploitation by this capitalist state with their own progress via the co-operatives, would find the state ownership so intolerable that they would sweep it away. Unfortunately, Engels had not bargained with the fact that reformists and revisionists of your type, the Lassalleans and Fabians would continue to have a sway in the workers movement, and would to use Trotsky words, continue to act to deceive the workers into a beleif that this state capitalist exploitation was somehow preferable to their exploitation by individual capitalists.

    Fortunately, workers themselves have realised where their future lies, and continue to create their own co-operatives across the globe despite the failure of Marxists to support them. The number of co-operatives continues to grow apace, and now employs more than do the multinational corporations, and as with the alliance between the United Steel Workers and Mondragon, that process looks set to grow further and faster, as capitalism fails to provide them with a progressive solution to their problems. But then its not just capitalism that fails to provide workers with a solution, is it, which is why the left has become so isolated from the workers, and so sterile.

  16. Henry Says:

    “because Engels here is talking about the dying out of the Workers State”

    He doesn’t actually say this though does he. The point is that the workers state (not sure that is the correct formulation but will let it pass) will grow out of the existing state. It will be transformed into the workers state by the action of a revolutionary party, representing the workers, gaining political power and taking over state structures and transforming them.

    Then it dies out. An example of this can be seen in Engels analysis of the Paris commune, where Engels called it a serious political mistake that the members of the commune didn’t take over the Bank of France –

    “The bank in the hands of the Commune – this would have been worth more than 10,000 hostages. “

    Engels, in a letter to an American comrade made the following remark:

    “here, as in your country, once the workers know what they want, the state, the land, industry and everything else will be theirs.”

    More quotes here:

    “It is clear that this business brings the moment considerably nearer when our people will become the only possible leaders of the state in France. “

    “So long as we are not strong enough to seize the helm of state ourselves and realize our principles there can be no talk, strictly speaking, of one reactionary mass vis-à-vis us. Otherwise the whole nation would be divided into a reactionary majority and an impotent minority.”

    The above comments certainly call into question your vision, which i contend is revisionism.

    Engels in anti-Duhring directly contradicts your idea that co-operatives are the economic road to socialism, and it shows how your materialist conception is fundamentally opposed to Marx and Engels.

    I agree with you that where Marxists do not support co-operatives this is a failure on their part, but those Marxists who think the workers should not take political power and bring large scale industry, land, banking etc into national ownership are no better and simply serve the status quo.

  17. Boffy Says:

    I think its clear you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, and seem to be making it up as you go along, grabbing whatever odd quote you can find to take out of context to try to support your position, whatever that might actually be.

    There is little point in me continuing to debate the issue. A discussion with someone who lacks knowledge and seeks to learn is one thing. A discussion with someone who knows nothing and pretends they know everything is something else.

  18. Henry Says:

    I am only grabbing quotes to counter the quotes that you grab! You are aware that you are doing this also aren’t you? And those quotes directly contradict your revisionism, no wonder you don’t like them!

    My first comments couldn’t have put it more clearly. The quotes from Marx and Engels clearly favor workers taking political power, using that power to control the state and bringing large scale industry, Land, banking etc into national ownership. I even showed that Marx rejected your materialist vision, i.e. with this comment.

    “the co-operative system will never transform capitalist society”

    Maybe you need that quote putting on a wall in your study?

  19. Boffy Says:

    I have no interest in further discussion with you. You clearly know nothing about Marxism. Your method if discussion is that of a troll. No one doubts that Marx and Engels favoured workers taking political power, and no one has argued anything differently. Your argument that they believed this could be done by taking over the existing capitalist state is what is at issue. Lenin wrote an entire pamphlet arguing against the revisionist position you advocate, and showing why your position is revisionist. His simply quote from Marx’s letter to Kugelmann is the most obvious refutation of your claim that Marx did not argue for that state to be smashed.

    “On April 12, 1871, i.e., just at the time of the Commune, Marx wrote to Kugelmann:

    “If you look up the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire, you will find that I declare that the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it [Marx’s italics–the original is zerbrechen], and this is the precondition for every real people’s revolution on the Continent. And this is what our heroic Party comrades in Paris are attempting.” (Neue Zeit, Vol.XX, 1, 1901-02, p. 709.)”

    Lenin (State and Revolution)

    That is the same reference I provided previously, and which you conveniently ignored. No doubt given your troll like method of argumentation you will present some form of words to now argue that Lenin was a revisionist that when Marx says that the existing capitalist state must be smashed he does not really mean that the state must be smashed, but that this state will grow into the new state!

    When you talk about Marx rejecting the materialist vision, you demonstrate beyond doubt that you clearly understand nothing about Marxism. When you chop out the quote co-operatives not transforming society, but leave out the rest of that sentence, which says “Restricted, however, to the dwarfish forms into which individual wages slaves can elaborate it by their private efforts,”, and their further demand that, “We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative production rather than in co-operative stores. The latter touch but the surface of the present economical system, the former attacks its groundwork.” you simply display the normal method of the troll in arguing dishonestly.

    So, the best policy I find is not to feed the trolls. I’ve said all I am going to say to you.

  20. sartesian Says:

    What’s this argument about and what does it have to do with Michael’s article?

    Boffy makes the correct, and essential point that making the banks “peoples’ banks” is essentially an oxymoron. It’s even, IMO, an oxymoron under the proletarian dictatorship, but it is surely an oxymoron, a non-starter go nowhere, even as a “transitional demand” in the class struggle.

    Arguing for capitalist banks to be instruments of “public service” or public good is Proudhonist nonsense– along the lines of “we want capital without the capitalists” or “capital = good” “interest = bad.” Complete, utter, irretrievable rubbish.

    Henry makes a weak argument and then tries to strengthen it by throwing in the bait about Boffy and the new Labor Party. or is that New Labor party? See what I mean? Who knows. Who cares.

    Banks are not instruments of production so they are categorically different than demands, which I think warrant critical support but are misguided, for workers coops. To establish a workers coop the workers, not the bourgeois state, actually have to seize power; actually have to dispossess the bourgeoisie. Quite a different animal, and, as I said worthy of support even in disagreement as to the validity of such as a revolutionary strategy.

    But banks under “public control”? The bourgeoisie will tell you, the banks are already under public control– the shareholders. If you don’t like what they’re doing, get the shareholders to agree with you. Otherwise you’re just being undemocratic.

    We, as revolutionists or Marxists, or even “transitional programm-ists” aren’t about “making banks instruments of public good.” Let’s start off with something better that means something real to real people like: abolish all student debt; abolish all private residential mortgage debt; abolish consumer debt.

    Our “transitional” demanders can’t even get as far as demanding the abolition of interest payments, much less abolishing the debt itself, which tells you how little they understand about “transitions,” class struggle, and breaking the back of private property.

    Henry now has the dubious distinction of motivating me to defend Boffy. Man, what a strange world.

  21. Henry Says:

    Sartesian,

    The point of the argument is that Michael proposes:

    “It’s time the banks were a public service and not money-making sharks designed to fleece the public”

    And we are debating the merits of this position. So it has everything to do with the article (it makes me wonder if you have being doing too much skimming, as does the rest of your comment).

    You have made a fundamental error if you think that I believe I am:

    “Arguing for capitalist banks to be instruments of “public service” or public good”

    My whole point is that banks under national control isn’t a demand for the capitalists to reform but a revolutionary promise that this will happen when the workers gain political power.

    And because you make this fundamental error you then fail to understand why I mentioned New Labour. I mentioned it simply to say to Boffy, if you believe New labour is the party to bring workers into political power then you should be arguing within New Labour to make bank nationalization one of its polices (among a raft of other revolutionary proposals).

    When commenting on the Paris commune Engels said it was a big mistake that the commune didn’t take into their hands the Bank of France and he pointed out that the commune was inspired by Proudhon from the economic point of view.

    “The hardest thing to understand is certainly the holy awe with which they remained standing respectfully outside the gates of the Bank of France. This was also a serious political mistake. The bank in the hands of the Commune – this would have been worth more than 10,000 hostages.”

    All this kinda contradicts everything you have said doesn’t it?

    Engels also provides his take on the state:

    “In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy; and at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at the earliest possible moment, until such time as a new generation, reared in new and free social conditions, will be able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap-heap.”

    So this, admittedly, is a sort of middle way between what I say and what Boffy says. But the main point is that Marx and Engels believed that the workers, once they had gained political power, had to bring under national control, Large scale industry, land and the Banks and they explained this from a materialist point of view – this was the tendency of capitalism, it was a progressive tendency and the workers could use this to transform society. What they absolutely made clear was that the co-operative system couldn’t do this. This is why Boffy’s materialist outlook is fundamentally different from Marx and Engels vision.

    (And I have the dubious distinction in joining Sartesian as just another internet troll!)

  22. sartesian Says:

    Except I’m responding to that argument of Michael’s, as is Boffy. Boffy responds correctly to Michael’s bit of wishful thinking. So unless you disagree with Boffy and agree with Michael, I don’t think there’s any basis for your dispute……..er……unless of course you want to take the opportunity to flog an ideology about “nationalization” and transitional demands, and who said what when.

    No one’s arguing against workers seizing banks or having to take power to smash the organization of the bourgeois state; but if you think “nationalizing” banks is a transitional demand, absent an organ of dual power, you’re just self-deluding.

    Banks under national control has no more revolutionary meaning than the old notion that the post office is a model for socialism, or the specious (and noxious) argument that socialism is “state capitalism run for the benefit of the people.”

    You (and Boffy) can array your dueling quotes from Marx and Engels all you want about workers coops, but you are missing the point of workers production coops– they don’t come about as other than moments in intense class struggle. In that regard they are certainly worthy of support. No, not a revolutionary strategy, but an expression of authentic working class struggle.

  23. Henry Says:

    Sartesian,

    the dispute is over what Michael said. Michael doesn’t demand that the capitalists use the banks to promote the interests of the public, surely implied in his statement is a vision of how banks could work if free of capitalists? That is how I read it, Boffy read it differently.

    But when you prod Boffy a little more you wonder if he actually supports workers taking political power and then bringing large scale industry, banks and land under the control of the nation (to quote Marx and Engels).

    My take on Boffy’s position is that the revolutionary process requires a protracted period of workers developing co-ops and only when these co-ops have enough sphere of influence can workers then take the political power. This is clearly contrary to the vision Marx and Engels had in mind, who thought workers were on the brink of political power even in their day. In fact they absolutely ruled out the transformation of society via co-ops. So revisionist.

    Yes they supported them for the reasons you mention and yes we should support them for those reasons.

    Now your argument seems to be that banks will play no part in a transitional period and will simply be done away with. So for you banks cannot play a positive role either under capitalists or under workers during a transition period. That again seems contrary to Marx and Engels vision.

  24. sartesian Says:

    Yeah, that’s right, I don’t think there can be such a thing as “workers’ banks” or “socialist banks.” I think that’s all nonsense. You might as well be telling me that credit can play a positive role in the development of socialism. And if credit can, then debt can. And if banks can, then god knows what a positive role wage-labor can play for the “workers’ state.” And if wage labor can, then piece-work might be the answer we’ve all been looking for.

    Banks can no more play a “positive role,” being and being only, repositories of capitalist value than debt can play a positive role; than value production, production for the accumulation of value can play a positive role.

    So is that what you think? It’s time capital, credit, wage-labor, piece work, and let’s throw in primitive accumulation to become what? Public services? Really? If that’s Marxism, count me out.

    “It’s time banks were a public service and not………..”

    Not what? Money-making entities. That’s pure Proudhonist crap– “we want capital without interest; we want capital without capitalists.”

    You want to say something real about banking? Attack the debts. The only realistic, transitional demand regarding banks is abolition of the debts.

    Marx and Engels said many, many things. Engels for example endorsed the US in its war against Mexico. Engels also thought that a German victory in the war with France in 1870 was a necessary precondition for the success of “our party” in Europe. Marx, to his credit, was a bit more circumspect in the matter.

    Doesn’t bother me that I don’t block quote Marx; that there are areas where I think Marx is unclear, makes mistakes, contradicts himself. I don’t claim to have a more expansive or precise memory of what Marx said. I have to look things up when other people claim Marx said something.

    I do think I have a pretty good grasp of what Marx was getting at in his core analysis, and that core analysis is value production; the organization of labor as a commodity for the expanded reproduction of value. From that core, we can draw all the necessary conclusions about banks and credit and “public services.” And that conclusion is: can’t happen.

    You want to seize the banks? Fine. You want to liquidate the assets of the bourgeoisie “secured” by banks. Even better. We can abolish banks. But banks are not centers of production. We cannot free the “useful core” from the circumscribing shell. Banks are nothing but that shell.

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