|Marx described Lassalle as the model of the |
future workers' dictator. Its Lassalle's
statist policies, not those of Marx, which
guide the AWL and others like them.
The origins of this cross-class approach lie specifically in the Popular Front politics of Stalinism of the 1930's, but the advocacy of statist policies under cover of demands for “democratic control”, go back long before that. The proposal for “state aid” - essentially nationalisation or state sponsored enterprises – under “democratic control”, was raised by the Lassalleans, as part of the Gotha Programme. It is no coincidence that Marx called Lassalle a Bonaparte, as Hal Draper points out.
“...Marx grasped the nature of Lassalleanism perfectly. He told Lassalle to his face that he was a “Bonapartist,” and wrote presciently that “His attitude is that of the future workers’ dictator.” Lassalle’s tendency he called “Royal Prussian Government socialism,” denouncing his “alliance with absolutist and feudal opponents against the bourgeoisie.”
It is perhaps no coincidence then that today, the AWL have argued, in defence of their alliance with “Democratic Imperialism”, that the feudal Gulf Monarchies were one means by which democracy was being brought to Libya!!!
In his “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, Marx writes specifically denouncing the notion of such state aid and “democratic control” in typically stinging terms. He says,
“From the remnants of a sense of shame, "state aid" has been put -- under the democratic control of the "toiling people".
In the first place, the majority of the "toiling people" in Germany consists of peasants, not proletarians.
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, as Draper says,
““Instead of the revolutionary process of transformation of society,” wrote Marx, Lassalle sees socialism arising “from the ‘state aid’ that the state gives to the producers’ cooperative societies and which the state, not the worker, ‘calls into being.’” Marx derides this. “But as far as the present cooperative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not proteges either of the government or of the bourgeoisie.” Here is a classic statement of the meaning of the word independent as the keystone of Socialism-from-Below versus state-socialism.” (ibid)
This hostility to “state-socialism”, or what is in reality “state capitalism”, is echoed by Engels in his “Critique of the Erfurt Programme”. That programme in points 8 and 9 had called for the nationalisation of various industries such as pharmaceuticals, and services such as the law, along with the introduction of a welfare state funded by a state run national insurance scheme. Engels opposed this state interference writing.
“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?”
But, even were the AWL to replace their cross-class demand for “democratic control” with a demand for “workers control” it would not really improve matters. Firstly, we are still left with a Lassallean, top-down view of “state-socialism” rejected by Marx, Engels, and nearly all the other Marxists of the time. We are still left with an approach based not upon the workers constructing their own independent co-operatives as the means of transforming the material conditions, and the ideas that arise from them, but with an appeal to the capitalist state to come to the workers rescue, just as the AWL do in calling on “Democratic Imperialism” to ride to the rescue in Libya etc. In other words we are left with a demand for the working class to beg from its knees to its class enemy, and thereby “through these demands that it puts to the state, expresses its full consciousness that it neither rules nor is ripe for ruling!”
I will continue the analysis of why this kind of statist approach offers no truly progressive alternatives either to capitalism or to the problems of the Co-op in Part 5.