22 October 2016

Conservative, or Bourgeois, Socialism

Continuing my commentary on The Communist Manifesto
"To this section belongs economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of the SPCA, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind... 
The Socialistic bourgeois want the living conditions of modern society without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie natural conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and Bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into a more or less complete system. 
... A second and more practical, but less systematic, form of this Socialism sought to deprecate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class, by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economic relations, could be of any advantage to them... 
.... Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. Solitary confinement: for the benefit of the working class." 
- The Communist Manifesto, 1848, Chp 3.

Anyone in Britain reading this recognises, or should recognise, the present government as the most recent in a long line of governments who dismiss revolution and argue that they are the party of the workers, the only ones who can make the workers better of materially. As if offering workers back some minuscule fraction of the products of their own labour in order to be a better consumer has anything but the enrichment of the 1% in mind.

At the same time they knobble labour unions, export jobs to other countries, and most importantly they *remain in power*.

The bourgeois remain in control and dole out rewards to the faithful workers in the form of "benefits" when their jobs are annihilated or the system crushes them so much that they can no longer work. And we see the 1% getting exponentially richer while workers become redundant or keep their jobs only at the cost of less wages and poorer conditions.

We are even treated to the slogan "taking our country back from the bureaucrats of Europe". What a bitter irony that is.

But as (right-wing) comedian Simon Evans has remarked, there was never in history, a country less likely to revolt than Britain is today. Workers have bought the line about the desirability of material goods, are eager to be consumers, and have their minds anaesthetised by reality TV and the internet. The constant pressure to relocate away from family and community to seek work is slowly atomising society. Schools churn out conformist drones for the call-centres, who live for the binge drinking weekend. And best of all, he points out, "a stroke of genius", the poor are *fat*. At least in the past the poor were thin and hungry and that made them eager for change.

The collapse of totalitarian forms of state socialism seems to have been used to discredit the left generally. As though there is no value in helping each other, supporting each other. Our politicians are completely insulated from the problems they cause. The supposed party of the workers is so busy with its internal power struggles that it has lost the ability to perform any function in the power structures of the nation. But it long ago become bourgeois.

The ruling classes have hoodwinked the population into believing that there is no alternative to Neoliberalism - a combination of discredited economic and social policies that lead to the breakdown of economies and societies, but which succeed in enriching the rich. And we're not even really angry about this. Bombarded with TV news in which our capacity for empathy is swamped by vicarious suffering and hyperstimulation, we struggle to respond to the people around us.

Some of us think we can create a protective bubble around us. Walk around the homeless, ignore the political corruption, cling to what we have, and keep our fingers crossed that the people in charge will not take our jobs, homes, and savings again as they did in 2008. But we are not protected by this.

The weird thing is that be definition we out number the 1% 100 to 1. We could simply repossess all that wealth. There are not enough police to stop us if we all acted together. But Capitalism per se has atomised society to the extent that concerted action is probably no longer possible. Effective resistance to the bourgeoisie is all but over. Most of us are not even thinking in terms of resistance, let alone revolution. Revolution, as Marx and Engels predicted has been discredited, and participation in free market Capitalism is now the only way for workers to improve their lives. Free market Capitalism has replaced the Christian Church as the arbiter of values and consumerism as the opium of the masses.

To be fair, Capitalism has dragged everyone with it to some extent. The average worker does have a materially better standard of living. But that raising of the workers is steadily reversing now that opposition has been neutralised. Wages are falling. Jobs are disappearing to places where people labour in worse conditions for less for less pay. Atomisation continues apace.

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