How do states relate to the bourgeoisie

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Agent of the International's picture
Agent of the In...
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Oct 4 2013 22:16
How do states relate to the bourgeoisie

Do different political forms (democracies versus military dictatorships) have an impact on the way states relate to the capitalist class as a whole, or even particular factions? And how so?

I've heard that the bourgeois classes across the first world preferred the democratic form because it allowed them to keep the state accountable to their needs and that it provided a check on potential abuses of state power.

omen
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Oct 4 2013 23:25

[Sorry this was so long.]

The problem with a military dictatorship and capitalism is that you have two forms of power co-existing, and there's not really anything to keep the dictator from seizing total control. In the 30s there was big support in the US, UK and elsewhere amongst capitalists for fascism, largely because of its anti-communism, until it turned around a bit them (seizing assets they owned in Germany, say, during the war).

As for how the bourgeoisie relate to the state in liberal democracies: 1) they fund the political parties (sometimes the same people fund both) which gives them leverage over party policies (and party leaders will meet face to face privately with major donors, something us plebs can't do, to discuss policy), which solves the power problem they face with dictatorships; 2) they own the media and regularly attack politicians they don't like (which sometimes works, some times backfires); 3) they often advise the government, or even work in government!

An example of #3: Earnest Marples was a Tory MP (here in the UK) in the 40s-60s. He moved up the ranks of the party to become (while the Tories were in power) Postmaster General, and later the Minister of Transport. While MoT he commissioned the infamous Beeching report, which was used to determine what parts of the railways (which were state owned at the time) to shut down. He also initiated a massive road building project, building the UKs network of motorways.

Now, by a happy coincidence Marples was part owner of Marples-Ridgeway, a road building company - although technically while MoT he'd "sold" all his shares in the company... to his wife! So as to avoid any conflict of interest - because your wife owning a massive road building company while your are initiating the country's single largest road building project as Minister of Transport, and simultaneously cutting people off with a series of cuts to the railways and forcing them to buy cars and use the new roads, isn't in any way shape or form a conflict of interest. After he'd left government, he bought back his shares at the same value he'd sold them for.

This is not to say that Marples-Ridgeway built all the roads itself - it still had to compete for government contracts* and didn't always win - but it sure as hell benefited from all the extra road building taking place.

[*This is why you often find sections of motorway mysteriously switching from concrete to tarmac and back again, as they were built in sections by different companies, and each company had their preferred building materials.]

Just to finish the story, Marples would later flee the country (leaving suddenly overnight) as it turned out he hadn't been paying any tax for decades, and died a few year later in exile.

Now, the thing is, this isn't a widely known story in the UK (my parents who were around at the time all this was going on don't remember any of it). (And I've been reading quite a lot about the history of the building of the motorways and motorway service stations, recently (don't ask), and none of the books I've read mention anything about this.) Most people probably know about the "Beaching Cuts", and he's the one who gets all the blame (even though he was just hired by Marples to do a job).

And it isn't just confined to the past. A recent Health Minister had previously worked in private healthcare and initiated the "reforms" that are effectively privatizing the NHS in the UK (or at least England, for the time being). He'd also worked for junk food companies, and put a stop to plans to ban advertising junk food to children. Also, a good proportion of the House of Lords who voted through the NHS privatisation also happen to have ties to private health companies. And the BBC (state sanctioned broadcaster), who's better paid staff get private health insurance, barely covered this vote, and have broadly supported the "reforms".

None of this is corruption, apparently. Marples only got in trouble because he fiddled his taxes.

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cresspot
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Oct 4 2013 23:22

You scratch my brack I scratch yous they say

omen
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Oct 5 2013 00:02
I wrote:
None of this is corruption, apparently. Marples only got in trouble because he fiddled his taxes.

Oh yeah, and on a related note. There have been a number of scandals in the UK over the years with regards to politicians taking money to do things (e.g. the cash for questions scandal in the 90s, and, more recently, politicians caught offering undercover journalists meetings with the party leader for large sums of money).

The media were crucial in rooting out these blatant examples of corruption. But at the same time, more banal examples, because they are not technically illegal, get overlooked by much of the media. Often they only get picked up by Private Eye magazine, which has a tiny circulation, but its readership is probably skewed disproportionally towards other journalists/editors/etc, which probably means many journalists know about these things but aren't reporting them.

Things like party funding influencing policy isn't a problem when rich people or companies do it - but when its unions funding the Labour party, then it turns out that actually it is a problem after all (another recent scandal). Same with people moving between business and government.

Just remember to pay your taxes, don't take bribes or fiddle your expenses, and don't get caught having sex with someone you shouldn't be - otherwise everything else is fair game! Oh, and don't mention socialism or anything suspiciously like it, or they'll just say you did one of those things anyway, like they did when the media claimed Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Miners, paid his mortgage with bribes paid by Colonel Gaddafi. Or that woman from the UN who recently criticised Tory housing policy and was smeared by one paper as a a Marxist witch (literally a witch, as in practising witchcraft, there was a thread on here about it).

In short: capitalists don't like corruption, but they also have very specific, and peculiar, ideas about what is corrupt and what isn't.

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Oct 5 2013 00:47

Beyond what omen mentioned, capitalists play the key role of accumulating capital. A certain portion of the profits generated within the territory controlled by a state is appropriated by the state through taxation. In this sense, the state's own wealth (and the power that comes with that) is dependent on maintaining a "good environment to do business in" as politicians tend to phrase it. Capitalists also tend to fund a large portion of state debt through purchasing treasury bonds.

This isn't always a totally easy relationship, though. As omen wrote, capitalists can use their wealth to help push preferred factions into power when the existing government isn't doing enough to guarantee adequate capital accumulation, either because it's encroaching on their control of capital or because it's insufficient in its repression of the working class--the case of the Pinochet coup comes to mind. And the state can seize control of capital away from private capitalists through nationalization, though this is likely to meet with a crushing response internationally. These are essentially fights between bourgeois faction, and things like nationalization shouldn't be confused as in anyway a step toward communism.

vicent
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Oct 5 2013 04:24

"bourgeois classes across the first world preferred the democratic form because it allowed them to keep the state accountable to their needs "

also liberal democracies are way more efficient then unacountable dictatorships ; when the time calls for the bourgeois to hand power to a bonapartiste regime " in order to save its purse it must forfeit the crown". the regime usually messes everything up . which is why the bourgeois took control from the monarchy in the first place, less corrupt, less irrational etc etc

slothjabber
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Oct 7 2013 14:07

Less corrupt and irrational, from the point of view of capitalist accumulation.

Not less corrupt and irrational from the point of view of humanity as a whole, or the working class within it. Putin, Berlusconi, the whole sorry mess of the UK Parliament, and the rigmarole of both disputed (Bush v Gore, Bush v Kerry) and bought (eg Bloomberg in NYC) elections in the US I think demonstrate that by any objective standard bourgeois democracy is both hugely corrupt and hugely irrational.

vicent
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Oct 8 2013 05:23

but still less than say naziism or monarchism no?