Sunday, July 08, 2007

Democratic Socialism is Capitalism Pt 5

(This is part 5 of Wu Bing's rebuttal of Xie Tao, who advocates a full-scale restoration of capitalism in China. I am translating it from the original which was posted on the website, so any mistakes are mine. For the Introduction and earlier parts, go to the May Archive. Because of the length of Part 5, I am putting it in a smaller font than usual. While we assume that the class struggle has been won in China, by the restorationists, we should not turn our back on comrades fighting for the realisation of Mao's vision. They have our support. There is much to learn from them! )

5. Antagonism between socialist and capitalist systems of distribution

From each according to his ability, to each according to his work is one of the main characteristics of socialism, and its opposite is the capitalist system of distribution according to wealth. Distribution according to work is, after making social deductions from the social product, and taking work as the criterion, the distribution of consumer goods to the labourers, with the greatest reward going to those who contribute more labour, and less going to those who do less, and with those who don’t work getting nothing to eat. Implementing this principle is the foundation of the socialist system of public ownership, and is a thoroughgoing revolution in the old system of distribution, of the exploitation of man by man. The working people will no longer be working for the landlords, sweating and working themselves to the bone for the capitalists, but working for themselves, creating beautiful life and work for society, and stimulating the enormous enthusiasm of the labouring masses and promoting the development of production. Lenin said that the principle of distribution according to work “contained the basis of socialism and was the inexhaustible source of the strength of socialism, and the indestructible safeguard of the final victory of socialism” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 3 p 560-561 Ch. Ed). On this major question of principle, Mr Xie Tao has also spread much confusion.

(1) He believes that exploitation and disparity are the “levers promoting social progress”. Xie Tao says “The basic principle of Marxism is that the development of the productive forces is the foundation on which the entire society progresses. Disparity and inequality and social differentiation are the result of the development of the productive forces and of the increase in social wealth, and therefore this is, generally speaking, social progress; however, at the same time, it also embodies regression, giving rise to exploitation, oppression and class struggle. In this way, society is a contradictory entity; this is a form of development of humanity farewelling the era of barbarism and entering the civilised threshold of social existence. The basic starting point of Marxism is the former, this is the cornerstone of historical materialism; to overemphasise the latter is the starting point of the utopian socialist school. If the distribution of social wealth is not equal, it is a lever to bring into play the enthusiasm of the members of society and to push forward social progress. There is a reasonable “degree” operating this lever (contemporary economic scientists call it the ‘Gini coefficient’ [used as an aggregate measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient varies from zero, when wealth is equally distributed among all people, to 1 when one person holds all the wealth. For example, in Australia, it was 0.86 in 1915 when there was a large concentration of wealth, to 0.52 in 1967, when there was a more equal distribution, to 0.64 in 1998 following a move back to a more concentrated holding of wealth – Trans.]), and exceeding this “degree” will lead to a social explosion; eliminating this “degree” will lead society to lose its vigour and its impetus for advance. The result of this is a bursting of the contradictory entity, giving way to a new dynasty or to a new system. The sum total of the skill of leaders is to grasp this, to regulate this “degree”. Communists have fought for several decades for an ideal society, and the biggest mistake in their policies has been to attempt to eliminate this “degree”, to use the method of “everyone eating from the same big pot” to achieve “equality”, believing that so long as things are fair then there is no need for efficiency, even to the extent of being proud of their poverty.” Mr Xie Tao beats around the bush in this passage, but his central meaning is to protect the system of private ownership and exploitation and in the main embodies this type of implication.

Firstly, he believes that “overemphasizing” “exploitation, oppression and class struggle” is “utopian socialism”. This is deliberately confusing the difference in principle between “utopian” and “scientific” socialism. What is utopian socialism? What are the differences between utopian socialism and scientific socialism? This was answered early on in the classical works of Marxism. Marxists believe that although utopian socialism had many important ideas that later became a direct source of the scientific socialism of Marx and Engels, there were differences of principle between utopian socialism and scientific socialism, and that it is not hard to identify these differences. Utopian socialism therefore is “utopian” precisely because it has not promulgated the essence and the root of capitalist “exploitation” and “oppression” that class struggle inevitably results in the law of the development of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They can’t see the great historical function of the proletariat, can’t find the correct path for transforming the capitalist system, and imagine that by means of “experiment” and by “setting an example” to the man of property that they will realize the unrealizable beautiful society of eternal justice. These things fully indicate the immaturity and limitations of this theory. Therefore, how are we able to say that Marxism’s stress on opposing “exploitation, oppression and class struggle” has turned into the “school of utopian socialism”? You can’t fit donkey’s lips on a horse’s jaw (i.e. what he says is irrelevant - Trans.).

It follows that the real intention behind Mr Xie Tao’s so-called “overemphasizing” “exploitation, oppression and class struggle” is in fact that the working class should not “emphasize” “exploitation, oppression and class struggle”. In this way, Mr Xie Tao is being a bit unfair, since the capitalist class can “overly” “emphasize” its exploitation and oppression of the working class, so why can’t the working class “overly” “emphasize” this type of exploitation and oppression? But the mistake and the lesson of utopian socialism is precisely that it does not “emphasise” violent revolution – believed by Mr Xie Tao to be an “excessive” measure – to destroy the exploitation of the bourgeoisie and the state apparatus used to oppress the people!

Whether to emphasise the elimination of private ownership, the elimination of exploitation and class oppression, emphasise class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, is also to distinguish Marxism and revisionism and the touchstone for being differentiated from the democratic socialism promoted by Mr Xie Tao. Said like this, democratic socialism falls far short of utopian socialism! We know that when all is said and done, the utopian socialism of the three main utopians Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen, was a significantly progressive theory of early proletarian opposition to capitalist exploitation and oppression. Before the birth of Marxism, many expressed the heartfelt wishes of the proletariat of that time. But democratic socialism does not do any of this. As Engels pointed out: “Although the nature of the doctrines of these three thinkers was extremely unreal and utopian, in the end they belong to the ranks of those with the greatest wisdom of all times, for with their talent they had indicated the boundless truth that we now have already scientifically proven” (“Collected Works of Marx and Engels”, Vol 2, p, 301 Ch. Ed.). Let us also look at the utopian communist Weitling ((right). In 1841 he pointed out in “Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom” that “Private property is the root of all evil”. In 1844, when praising this book of Weitling, Marx wrote: if one compares these halting but gigantic first steps of the proletariat with the mincing gait of the full-grown German bourgeoisie, one cannot help predicting that the proletarian Cinderella will develop into a prodigy of strength" (“Collected Works of Marx and Engels” Vol 4, p. 189 Ch ed.).The gentlemen of democratic socialism don’t have any of the “giant steps” of Weitling and some only have the “mincing gait” of the bourgeoisie!

Once again, the so-called “Disparity and inequality and social differentiation are the result of the development of the productive forces and of the increase in social wealth" is just a denial of the Marxist theory of surplus value, a denial of the historical fact of bourgeois exploitation and oppression of the working class and labouring people. In the final analysis, it is opposition to the replacement of capitalism with socialism, opposition to distribution according to work, and maintaining forever the exploitation of capitalism. This is a rerun of new and old revisionism’s “exploitation has merit” and “exploitation is reasonable”.

(2) The welfare system conceals the essence of capitalist exploitation. “The Preface” quotes from “A General Plan for the Operation of Capital” (Reform Publishing House, 1997, p. 227): The capitalist countries “Drew on the experiences of the socialist system of welfare and implemented a guaranteed birth to death welfare capitalism which we are used to calling the Western nations’ developed capitalism, for all of them have turned into the new capitalism and have to varying degrees become democratic socialist.” “America… active nationalisation, implementing medical insurance for all the people, having the government run the schools, reduction of taxes for the poor, a raising of the level of welfare and of minimum wages, paying great attention to the marginalised in society.” And again: “Common prosperity is not getting those with property to become propertyless, but getting the propertyless to become propertied; it is not getting the wealthy to become poor, but getting the poor to become wealthy. This is the general train of thought of social democrats in government. This completely new train of thought is one hundred times superior to Mao Zedong’s “class struggle” mentality of robbing the rich and giving to the poor; the former is common prosperity whilst the latter is common poverty. While violent socialism has run its race, democratic socialism in north western Europe has obtained outstanding success.”

What Mr Xie Tao means is that because the capitalist countries have become ‘democratically socialised” and implemented a welfare system of “common prosperity”, this type of “common prosperity” makes the “propertyless into the propertied”, however, he attacks the socialism of Mao Zedong as “robbing the rich to help the poor”, as “common poverty”, as “turning those with property into the propertyless”. This is nothing more than things being repeatedly turned upside down by Mr Xie Tao.

In relation to the question of the so-called “welfare system” and “common prosperity” of the capitalist countries, we have no alternative but to clear up several points below.

Firstly, the bourgeoisie of the main capitalist countries, for the sake of alleviating the class contradictions between themselves and the working class, have in fact at the same time as developing state monopoly capitalism, borrowed from the experiences of socialism, and in relation to the aspect of the welfare of the working class, has made some adjustments for improvement. For example, in some countries (e.g. Japan, West Germany) certain enterprises have adopted such measures as co-opting workers into administration, luring workers to go all out and to obtain a bigger profit for the enterprise. The bourgeoisie has adopted the deceptive measure of “making a bigger cake”, and from within the super profits which it seizes, takes out a little bit with which to improve and enhance workers’ wages and welfare, enabling class contradictions in the post-war period to temporarily relax. However, these improvements have not changed the basis of the exploitation of the working class and its being ruled over by the capitalist system, has not eliminated the basic contradictions of capitalism, and have not changed the basic condition under which capitalism gas already entered its dying stages.

In the post-war period, and after the implementation of the welfare system, the rate of domestic surplus value in each main capitalist country did not reduce, but rose greatly. In 1947, the rate of surplus value in the US manufacturing industry was 146%, whilst in 1975 it rose to 263%; in Western Germany, the rate of surplus value in industry was 204% in 1950, whilst in 1974 it rose to 265%; the rate of surplus value in Japan rose from 275% in 1951 to 421% in 1960 and 431% in 1976. This indicates that the bourgeoisie had actually aggravated the exploitation of the working class. In addition, the expenditure of governments in the capitalist countries is mainly dependent on taxation revenue, the major portion of which is personal income tax but the burden of this personal income tax falls mainly on the workers. For example, before the war, in 1938, the income tax and social security burden borne by the working class accounted for 21% of US state revenue; after the war, by 1975, this had grown to 74.45%. At the present time, the tax paid by US workers accounts for 20% or more of their income. This indicates that the capitalist countries have not realized the impossible-to-realize “common prosperity” of “the propertyless becoming the propertied”. This proposition of Mr Xie Tao’s is fictitious. The so-called “democratic socialism in north western Europe has obtained outstanding success”, if we were to exchange views, is that the bourgeoisie of these countries have achieved “success” in exploiting the working class and other working people, and is on no account the “success” of the exploited and oppressed.

Secondly, the developed capitalist countries, while “improving” and “adjusting” the welfare policy of the working class, increased their plunder of the countries of the Third World, and increased the gap between the countries of monopoly capitalism and the Third World. After the war, on the one hand they retained as far as possible for themselves their privileges in their former colonies, and on the other hand they adopted the technique of neo-colonialism to strengthen their expansion and infiltration into the developing nations. They reaped huge profits from the export of capital from the developed countries. According to various sources, the total export of capital from the US, Britain, France and Germany in 1938 amounted to 39 billion US dollars. Direct investment by the US in the developing nations up to 1988 had accumulated to 76.837 billion US dollars, and the profit in the 39 years from 1950 to 1988 reached as high as 177.359 billion US dollars, or 2.3 times the amount of the investment. The multinational corporations of the major capitalist countries exploited the inexpensive labour force of the developing nations, and their profit margin must generally be more than twice as high as that of their own countries. In 1976, the net amount of capital exported from the US to developing nations was 1.7 billion US dollars from which they derived a profit of 6.9 billion US dollars, not counting that amount that was reinvested overseas. In the year to the end of 1972, the total amount of US direct investment in Middle Eastern petroleum was 1.8 billion US dollars; in the same year, this earned a net profit of 2.4 billion US dollars, a profit margin as high as 130%. The export of loan capital creates a heavy debt burden for developing countries. The outstanding debt of the developing countries was just under 100 billion US dollars at the start of the 1970s, rising to 1320 billion US dollars in 1988. In 1988, the developing nations took out loans worth 92.3 billion US dollars, but reimbursed 142.4 billion US dollars from their debt payment funds, or 1.54 times the amount of the loans. The plunder of the developing nations through such unequal exchanges by the developed capitalist countries has exceeded the pre-War levels. The prices for the large amounts of raw materials from the developing nations are pushed down, but the cost of their imports of finished products rises unceasingly. According to estimates by overseas economists, prior to the price rises by the oil producing nations of the Third World in 1973, the developed capitalist countries exploitation of the Third World was approximately 100 to 150 billion US dollars per year. An Iranian Government official pointed out that “A handful of industrial nations, in the long space of almost a quarter of a century, has used cheap oil prices as the main force in the day to day rapid growth of their economies, but the developing nations have no option other than to pay ever-increasing prices for their imports.” In international trade, the developed countries use of the “scissors gap” between the prices of primary products and finished products has caused the developing nations to suffer heavy losses. According to data, from 1951 to 1973 alone, owing to the “scissors gap” between these prices, the developing nations lost more than 130 billion US dollars. Since entering the 1980s, the developing nations of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific alone lost 150 billion US dollars because of the “scissors gap”. The developed capitalist countries use all means possible to pass the burden of crisis and difficulty onto the developing nations, forcing down the price of primary products on the world market, enhancing the interest rates on the world money market, in addition to adopting trade protectionism on certain commodities, causing a sharp decline in the export trade of the developing nations and a sudden expansion in their unfavourable balance of payments. A debt crisis has appeared in various countries.

Economically, the gap between the developing nations and the developed capitalist countries has further expanded. According to data released by the World Bank, the per capita GDP of the developed countries was 14 times that of the developing nations in 1965; by 1988, the former was 23.46 times that of the latter. In 1978, the 16.2% of the world’s population living in the developed countries had 81.5% of total GDP, whilst the 83.8% of the population living in the medium income countries (including a minority of non-developing nations) and the low income countries only had 18.5% of total GDP. The economic inequality between the developed capitalist countries and the developing nations widened even further. (Selections from “On the Summary of the Study of Certain Problems of Socialism” by the Central Propaganda Department.)

In addition, as indicated in the Human Development Report issued in 1999 by the United Nations Development Programme Bureau, the total wealth of the 225 richest people in the world had surpassed 1000 billion US dollars, which was equal to the sum total of the yearly income of 2.5 billion people (47% of the world’s population). Also, the Forbes magazine website, on March 10, 2007, announced the 2006 Forbes list of the “World’s Richest People”. In 2006, there were a record 793 billionaires, an increase of 102 since 1988, and their total wealth had increased by 18%, reaching 260 billion US dollars, and the three wealthiest – the US Microsoft Corporation president Bill Gates (50 billion US dollars), the Walton Family (48 billion US dollars) and Warren Buffett (33 billion US dollars) alone had surpassed the sum total of the wealth of 48 developing counties including Afghanistan, Yemen and Zambia. The Report also demonstrates that in 1998 total world consumption rose to 24000 billion US dollars which was 6 times that of 1950, but this consumption was still concentrated in the developed wealthy countries. Nearly one billion people still cannot obtain basic social security. One-fifth of the world’s wealthiest people consumed 81% of resources produced (“Information and Research”, State Planning Commission Macroscopic Economics research Institute, 1999, No. 27). The most recent research materials issued by the United Nations on Dec 5, 2006 disclosed that half of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest 2%, and that the wealthiest 1% has 40% of the world’s wealth, while 50% of the world’s people have 1% of the world’s wealth (Spain’s “Revolt” newspaper, Dec 26, 2006). At present the average income of people in the wealthiest nations is 330 times that of people in the poorest nations; the total amount of foreign loans owed by the South to the North has already increased from 794 billion US dollars in 1991 to more than 3000 billion US dollars today, an increase in ten short years of more than 4 times (“Chinese Social Sciences Digest”, 2007, Vol 1, p. 13)

Facts overwhelmingly show that in the poor countries created by monopoly capitalism, the poor get poorer, whilst in the wealthy countries, the rich get richer.

(3) In the same way, the existence of a serious polarisation of capitalism itself still exists – it has certainly not vanished. Along with the development of science and technology, the accumulation and expanded production of capitalism has deepened the exploitation of the working class and working people. Its result is the inevitable creation of two poles, one of which is the accumulation of wealth and the other of which is the accumulation of poverty. The difficulties of the proletariat and other labouring people are not reduced, but increase. According to statistics in Forbes magazine in 1999, those living under the poverty line in the world’s richest countries total more than 100 million people, there are at least 37 million unemployed people, 100 million homeless, and nearly 200 million people have a life expectancy of less than 60 years.

At the same time as he spreads the lie of the capitalist countries “paying great attention to the marginalised in society” and “implementing common prosperity”, Mr Xie Tao has also further stated: “Through major developments in the productive forces and the regulation of distribution, the capitalist countries have basically eliminated the differences between town and country, between workers and peasants and between mental and manual labour, setting in place the magnificence of democratic socialism.” (According to the views of Mr Xin Ziling, author of “Mao Zedong: A Century of Merits and Faults”, the “greatest achievement of democratic socialism was to eliminate the three big differences under the premise of protecting the system of private ownership”, and “Western Europe has already entered communism”.) Mr Xie Tao’s so-called “by using the method of uniting with the bourgeoisie to develop the advanced productive forces, the Social Democrats have brought about a common prosperity of continual reduction of differences,” the so-called “reduction of the three big differences does not rely upon the thorough destruction of capitalism, but upon its development to a high degree”, the so-called “persisting in democratic socialism….is not provoking class conflict or intensifying social contradictions; rather it is uniting the social classes, promoting economic development, constantly increasing the total quantity of public wealth, regulating distribution and taking the path of common prosperity” etc etc. These things are all nonsense to deceive people.

History has proved long ago that owing to the existence of exploitation by capital and to class oppression, it is impossible to eliminate the “three big differences” in the capitalist countries, and that the achievement of “common prosperity” is impossible through the “regulation of distribution”. In “Reference News” (March 11, 2007) under the topic of “The Day by Day Growth of Differences between the City and the Countryside in Japan”, there was a report and explanation of this kind of “difference” in Japan. In relation to this, there are many facts and data, and there’s no need to list them here one by one.

Mr Xie Tao is single-minded about the U.S. He said, “Recent calculations of results…. The views of the U.S. Democratic Party on the economy are rooted in the ideas of Marx and Keynes, and advocate government guidance of the market economy, active nationalisation, implementing medical insurance for all the people, having the government run the schools, reduction of taxes for the poor, a raising of the level of welfare and of minimum wages, paying great attention to the marginalised in society, …nor when the Republican Party comes to power does it change the social policy of the Democrats. Democratic socialism has ‘communised’ the U.S.” But is this really the case? Let us have a look at the real circumstances of the U.S, which has been described as “already communized” by Mr Xie Tao. According to data provided by the US Census Bureau, the Gini Coefficient of residential household income increased from 0.403 in 1980 to 0.457 in 1999, a rise of 13.4%. Over the same period, the proportion of people with the lowest 20% of incomes to the total population of income-earners dropped from 4.3% to 3.6%, while the proportion of people with the highest 20% of incomes grew from 43.7% to 49.4%. In 30 years, the degree of inequality has obviously expanded. Again, according to a 1995 investigation by Forbes magazine, the richest 1% of residential households in the US had nearly 40% of the nation’s wealth, but 80% of residential households had only 16% of the wealth. Obviously, the wealth of the US is rapidly concentrating in the hands of the rich minority. In these twenty years, income disparity has also rapidly expanded. For example, the ratio of disparity between the wages of senior administrative personnel and workers in companies rose from 42:1 in 1980 to 419:1 in 1998. In the US, regardless of one’s material wealth or poverty, they all rank first in the world, they have the highest average individual income, but according to the index of poverty, those living in poverty account for 16.5% of the total population, 1/5 of people are functionally illiterate and 13% of people do not live to 60 years of age (“Chinese Social Sciences Digest”, 2007, Vol 1, No 53, p. 13). In addition, on July 28, 2006 an investigative report by the US government was released which demonstrated that every night in the US there are 750,000 homeless people who sleep out in the streets. This was the first observation and research report in 23 years by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development focussing on homeless people. In the ranks of these homeless, by age, 41% are 31-50 years old and 21% are minors; by ethnicity, 59% are minority peoples; the report also raises the issue that 1/5 are ex-servicemen. However, there is some dispute over these figures as there are some scholars in the US, who believe that the actual numbers of homeless may be closer to 1% of the total population, or 300,000 people “Labour News”, 2 March, 2007. This means that the growth in the profits of the monopoly capitalist class, and the status of the working class and working people as having been exploited and oppressed, together with the tendency towards the daily pauperisation, have certainly not changed.

The so-called “raising the minimum wage and caring for the marginalised”. In reality, under the contemporary capitalist system, the rate of increase of workers’ wages has fallen behind the rate of increase of capitalist profit. For example, the profits of the largest 500 companies in the US increased from 37.8 billion US dollars in 1975 to 52.5 billion US dollars in1977, an increase of 39%., but workers wages only rose by 5% from 1967-1976. In a special report on 23 February, 2007 titled “The Rich in the US Love Money”, the international channel on Chinese Central Television revealed that “The average income of US company chairmen 20 years ago was 22 times that of the average income of ordinary workers, but today that gap has grown to 224 times. Obviously therefore, more and more of the wealth created by the workers has flowed into the wallets of the capitalists. Agence France Presse on February 25, 2007 had a report that said that the McClatchy Group (a US media company - Trans.) after researching the 2005 US census data had found that for 2000 to 2005 the numbers of US citizens in deep or very deep poverty had increased by 26%. The research discovered that the time during which there was a large increase in those living in poverty was also a time of rapid growth in the US economy, but the unequal distribution of profits led to more and more US people becoming impoverished. The report said that during the temporary recession after 2001, there was a rapid rise in the productive efficiency of US workers, but the rate of increase in wages and employment opportunities had not kept pace. At the same time, the share of state revenue flowing to corporate profits has been excessively large and this has also influenced wage levels. The report pointed out that in the past 30 years and more, the numbers of impoverished people in the US was in a condition of stable growth (“Reference News” 3 March 2007). This is the so-called “communization of the US”! This is the so-called “common prosperity”!

(4) Changes in the structure of the industrial workers certainly have not changed the exploited status of the working class. Mr Xie Tao has proposed that “Along with the knowledge economy and the development of science and technology, and the unceasing upgrading of the industrial structure, the composition of the industrial ranks is also in change, and this is mainly manifested in the reduction of the numbers of physical labourers, primarily blue-collar workers, and the expansion of the numbers of mental labourers, and primarily white-collar workers. At the beginning of the 21st Century, blue-collar workers in Germany only constituted 6% of the salaried stratum. The working class, which served as the main revolutionary army and face-to-face opponent of the bourgeoisie in the “Communist Manifesto” has turned into a minority,” therefore “the working class doesn’t need to rise in revolution, but will be “liberated” along with the development of the advanced productive forces.” This conclusion of Mr Xie Tao’s is obviously untenable.

Indeed, the significant breakthroughs in atomic energy, electronic, chemistry and space technology after WW2, a rising sector of industry developed very rapidly. The revolution in science and technology has caused the economic structure of capitalism to undergo profound change and has also brought tremendous change to the employment structure and consumption patterns of the working class. In the post-war period, many economists in the capitalist countries have divided the various branches and sectors of the national economy into three main industries. Differentiating on the basis of their criteria, the first is primary industry (including agriculture, forestry, livestock and fisheries); the second is the industrial sector (including mining, manufacturing and construction); and the third is the service sector; everything not directly producing a physical product is included in the service sector, like the transportation and shipping industries, public utilities, commercial services, the financial and insurance industries, and even the sex services and gambling professions. In the post-war decades, the most remarkable change in the economic structure of the capitalist countries is the slow rate of growth of primary and secondary industry alongside the rapid growth rate of the tertiary sector, and in the gross national product, the proportion which the primary and secondary industries occupies obviously drops while the proportion occupied by the tertiary sector rapidly rises. There are three obvious aspects to these changes displayed by the data records. One is the sudden drop in the place occupied by agriculture in the gross national product and the national income. In 1950, the proportion occupied by agriculture in the national economies of the US, England, West Germany and Canada respectively was 7%, 6%, 10% and 13%. By 1968 these had reduced to 3%, 3%, 4% and 5%. In 1952, the agricultural populations of the US, England, West Germany and Japan respectively were 6.81 million, 1.11 million, 4.7 million and 17.19 million, but by 1970 these had dropped to 3.46 million, 780,000, 2.26 million and 8.86 million. In the developed capitalist countries, the decline in the proportion of agriculture in the gross national product is a universal phenomenon. This illustrates that owing to the development of the productive forces, fewer and fewer people are required for food production. The second aspect is that the proportion of all physical products in the GNP has declined while that of non-physical products has risen. This rise in the proportion of GNP is a concrete manifestation of the growth of the so-called “tertiary industry”. Starting just in the 1950s, in the seven main capitalist countries, only the US had a service industry which surpassed 50% of the proportion of GNP, reaching 55%. In England, France, West Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada, the proportion was 45%, 37%, 41%, 46%, 40% and 47% respectively. By 1968, the service industry’s proportion of US GNP rose to 60%, the Canadian and English proportions had rapidly risen to 62% and 57%, whilst the Japanese, West German, French and Italian proportions had risen to 48%, 43%, 46% and 49%. In the early 70s, the service industries in these 7 main capitalist countries had all passed 50% of GNP, and this tendency to grow is still present in all of them.

The tremendous changes in the economic structure of the capitalist countries inevitably affect the changes in the structure of the working class. From the 1950s onwards, there has been a big increase in the numbers of hired labourers in the developed capitalist countries, but this kind of increase mainly depends upon the increase in personnel in the so-called “tertiary industry”. For example, in the US, from 1950 to 1973, the proportion of personnel employed in the physical products sectors fell from 40.9% to 31.6%, whilst the proportion of personnel employed in the non-physical products sector increased from 59.1% to 68.4%. In the same way, between 1958 and 1968, the proportion of personnel employed in Western Europe’s non-physical products sector rose from 24.5% to 40.2%.

The shift of large numbers of workers from the physical products sector to the non-physical products sector in the developed capitalist countries and the daily enhancement of the status and function of the non-physical products sector in the national economy, resulting from the rapid launch of the revolution in science and technology, is a concrete manifestation of the day by day strengthening of the rule of monopoly capital. The revolution in science and technology has greatly enhanced labour productivity and this enabled the non-physical products sector to have the possibility of a massive increase in employees. For example, because the US has realised agricultural modernization, each unit of agricultural labour force can provide for a rapid increase in population. In 1950, each unit of agricultural labour force could support 15.5 people; in 1970 this rose to 42 people and in 1973 had reached 50 people, rising to 60 people by the end of the decade. In 1982, it could provide for 78 people. Precisely because labour productivity has been greatly enhanced, the US can in this situation of an absolute decline in the numbers of the agricultural working population, guarantee to increase agricultural production. For the same reason, there has been a big increase in the rate of labour productivity in the industrial sector, and the physical products sector has a relative reduction in labour force demand, and this is even, at certain times, a cause of an absolute decline. The widespread application of the achievements of science and technology in production, and more complex objective demands, and the substitution of a more skilled work for simple labour, in this way causes the proportion of personnel directly engaged in physical production to drop, and the proportion of engineers and technicians to grow. For example, from 1950 to 1973 those engaged in physical labour in the US increased from 23 million to 29 million, but as a proportion of those employed nationally, they fell from 39% to 35%. In the several decades after WW2, the numbers of so-called “white-collar” workers increased very quickly. In 1950, the number of office workers in the US was less than those engaged in physical labour, but by 1973 the number of office workers surpassed the former by approximately a third, occupying nearly one half of the numbers of those employed.

These changes that have occurred in the structures of the capitalist countries economies and in the working class have provided the false appearance for the propaganda of the bourgeois economists and sociologists. Long before Mr Xie Tao, bourgeois economists and sociologists had trumpeted the so-called “white-collar revolution” and covered over the class struggle under the conditions of modern capitalism, spouting the rubbish that “the working class had already disappeared”. In fact, along with the advancement of science and technology, the enhancement of the rate of labour productivity, the rise in the proportion of the non-physical sector in the national economy, and the rapid increase in the numbers of people employed in the “tertiary industry’s” various sectors, as well as the massive increase of skilled staff capable of grasping technology after specialist training, this is a kind of denial that a tendency for general development can be taken as a shift in the social system. Although, under the influence of the revolution in science and technology, the proportion of “white-collar” workers is increasing, and the proportion of unskilled physical labourers is decreasing, this is only a change in the structure of the working class and the “white-collar” workers are still a part of the working class. In modern capitalist society, all considered, the numbers in the working class have increased and the scope of the working class has expanded. Those engineering and technical personnel in the enterprises and research facilities operating electronic calculators and regulating automatic devices are all an inalienable part of the working class. Mr Xie Tao’s copying of the former monopoly capitalist class and its representatives with their so-called “sudden reduction in the blue-collar social stratum” that denies the existence of the working class, thus writing off the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the working class, is an effort in futility.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Underclasswp writes. On the whole this is a very good article,
What constitutes the working class in any economy is a question of class analysis and in the first place this is generally determined by the different classes relationship to the ownership of the means of production .This class ownership in turn determines the distribution of the product and surplus value created
The capitalist class distribute that value in the form of profits.
Ownership of the means of production by a socialist society enables a different distribution of the new value created by workers
But in a 'services based" economy like ours where industrial workers are now the minority the question of class analysis deserves particular attention. There is a great deal of confusion spread by the use of the concept of working people as if were the same as working class.
It is a question of science. What for example was Marx's definition of a worker?
Under capitalism a worker and membership of the working class is determined by whether or not that worker is exploited for surplus value and actually delivers up a profit to capital.
Not by whether or not the worker is involved in the physical production of material goods or by working at providing non material services , rises in production or the like, or by expansion of the working class in its white collar component as simple structural changes etc
So a worker even in a services industry that delivers up surplus value by being exploited by capital for unpaid labour time/value is working class.
Those, even while having a wages form of income but who deliver up no surplus value to capital are by class petty bourgeois and their identical brothers in class the unexploited labour aristocracy.
Determining class is therefore a question of examining the actual flows of surplus not simply the superficial appearances of income forms ,or colour of collars ,or by declaring that all "wageworkers" are working people and must be or are exploited for surplus value.
Thus class it is not determined by white colour or blue colour or by declaring that white colour workers are still workers because their income has a wages form of appearance and changes are simply structural. .
It is a question of exploited for surplus value or not that decides class