Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We’ll give Murdoch class struggle all right!

Vanguard June 2012 p. 7
Nick G.

In the wake of the 2012 Federal Budget, the Murdoch media and the Liberal opposition have left no stone unturned to paint Julia Gillard and her Treasurer Wayne Swan as advocates of class struggle.

Readers of Vanguard might wonder why we bother to deal with such tripe.  After all, comparing Julia Gillard to a genuine advocate of proletarian class struggle is rather like holding a candle to the sun – except that there is real doubt as to whether the candle is even alight!
However, comment serves a double purpose here.  Firstly, we need to acknowledge the influence that reactionary populism has particularly when it is served up by a virtual media monopoly.  Secondly, we need to draw a clear line of distinction between our own understanding of class struggle and that which is said to be the position of our social democratic friends in the Labor Party.
Reactionary populism
The post-Budget attack on Gillard and Swan was led by the misnamed Australian, the home place of reactionary comprador journalism.
Because a picture is worth a thousand words, the Australian’s editors took the unusual step of front-paging a cartoon showing a Soviet style art work in which Swan and Gillard are leading a screaming mass out of the factories under a hammer and sickle flag.

Swan was in the visually most dominant position both because he had responsibility for the Budget as Treasurer, but also because the ruling class is still smarting from a very mild criticism of billionaire excesses he published some months ago in the Monthly magazine and repeated during an appearance at the National Press Club.
The next day, another of ex-Citizen Murdoch’s kept columnists, David Penberthy, suggested that the idea of class struggle was “stupid” in a country like Australia, and that Gillard might have to back off if the electorate found it unpopular.  The cartoon accompanying Penberthy’s piece depicted Gillard as Delacroix’s bare-breasted Liberty leading the people. 

Joining Murdoch’s editors and writers in denouncing any increase in welfare for people doing it tough is a whole chorus of right-wing talk-back hosts, twitterers and writers of Letters to the Editors who complain that welfare is theft from the productive members of society for the benefit of the lazy.  This inversion of the reality of capitalist exploitation is to be expected from its apologists who see the world from an upside down perspective as they bend over to put their heads up their own backsides.
The reality of class struggle
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
 Those were the words of billionaire Warren Buffett, chair of Berkshire Hathaway, an insurance and investment holding company in 2006 during a NY Times interview. Buffett is the second-richest man in the world.
Buffett’s disarming honesty reflects the aggressive nature of capitalism which everywhere seeks to grind down the people and which, in the era of the complete domination of finance capital over all other forms of capital, has seen massive transfers of wealth from the world’s poorest people and even middle-income earners to what the Occupy movement identifies as the 1%.
In the face of this onslaught against living standards, the people fight back.
This is also class struggle even when those participating in this or that minor struggle or partial protest do not immediately see it in those terms.
We advocate class struggle, not as a thing in itself or out of some romantic notion of a holy proletariat, but because in its highest form, that of conscious revolutionary struggle for change from capitalism to socialism lays the only solution to the future of humanity.
Social democrats also acknowledge the existence of class struggle, although they subordinate it to peaceful, parliamentary channels for reforms within the rotten system of capitalism which they seek to “civilise from within”.  Probably very few of the major leaders of the Labor Party these days even go so far as to advance a traditional social democratic position.  They are much more comfortable trying to win acceptance as neoliberals in international financial and political circles.
Marx hit the nail on the head when he differentiated his understanding of class struggle from that of the reformists of his day.
“And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists, the economic anatomy of classes. What I did that was new was to prove:
(1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with the particular, historical phases in the development of production,
(2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat,
(3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society” (Marx, Letter to Weydermeyer, 1852).

Indeed, there would be nothing particularly challenging to capitalism as a system if Gillard and Swan did advocate class struggle, as the Murdoch press accuses them of doing, providing they did not also advocate the three matters in Marx’s statement above.
Needless to say, they would both die with a leg in the air before advocating any such thing.
The incredible reaction to their Budget from the defenders of monopoly capitalism shows what our class can expect if push ever really came to shove. 
That is why we organise as we do, why we protect our members’ identity as Communists as best we can, and why we hold no illusions about the possibility of legislating for a peaceful transition to anti-imperialist independence and socialism.
It is why as Communists we hold – in opposition to some of our young anarchist friends in the Occupy movement - that those who are genuine in their advocacy of class struggle must extend that to the need for the working class to utilise the apparatus of a state after power has been taken from the imperialists and local monopoly capitalists, and why our class must be the sole holder of state power throughout the socialist era.

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