The Dictatorship of Capital


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The mid-term elections have made it official: the US is a one-party state—a dictatorship of capital. Unlike the Communist party that represents the workers, the Republican Party represents the owners. The class struggle is globalized: the two camps are now confronting each other on a global level: the United States owners and the world workers.

Capitalist states and their apologists have, of course, always distinguished themselves from communist states by emphasizing the single party-ness of the communist states. For the proponents of the free market, the best evidence that communist countries are "totalitarian" and "anti-democratic" has always been that they are governed by single party states. Thus, while all Cubans (under conditions of a devastating decades long U.S. embargo designed to annihilate their economy) have access to healthcare, education, and can boast a 95% literacy rate, Cuba has been regarded as a "brutal dictatorship" for its single-party system by the richest nation in the world—in which citizens are denied healthcare, 15 million children are struggling with hunger, and in which high school students will graduate with less than an 8th grade reading level.

Up until now, the illusion of a "multi-party" system was kept alive by the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, which previously engaged in vigorous "social policy" disputes with Republicans, has always quietly supported the ruling class along side of them, through capitalist reforms. The extensive social policy of F.D.R.'s "New Deal" was advanced by the Democratic Party to save U.S. capital (which was on the verge of total collapse) from the growing hostility and outrage of American workers against class inequalities, and to ensure, for a fledgling U.S. capital, a much needed compliant and increasingly productive domestic labor force from which capital could extract surplus-labor for profit. The "welfare reforms" supported by the Clinton Administration—which dismantled the last vestiges of welfare—were merely an expression of the fact that U.S. capital had amassed so much wealth from the exploitation of U.S. workers that it suffered a crisis of profitability from overproduction, and was compelled to drive the standard of living (the necessary labor) of workers down to make more room in the working day for surplus-labor. "Social policy" in capitalism has always been a way to transfer the congealed labor of workers into the hands of the ruling class.

But now, with the all but "official" collapse of the Democratic Party, there has been a collapse of the illusion that the U.S. state is anything but a dictatorship of owners. The "explanations" of the collapse of the "multi-party" state offered by politicians and the corporate media in the wake of the elections have been trivializing non-explanations: they have either focused on the "back-boned" political savvy of the Republican Party or a "lack of organization" in the Democratic Party and its inability to offer a "strong program" to citizens. All of this masks the fact that election strategies have never been the basis of change. The silence of the Democratic Party on the issues of corporate scandals, the huge tax cuts for the rich, environmental destruction, health care, the rollback of democratic rights in the national security state and war is not an effect of a poor election strategy, but a silence driven by shared economic interests. When the basic question of the profitability of capital is at stake there is no decisive difference between the two parties.

Now that its "single-party-ness" is officially established, the U.S. state can dispense with all pretense to "democracy" and the social well-being of citizens and get down to the business of concentrating the wealth of the world into the hands of a few. The "policy disputes" that once marked the difference between the two parties have either emptied and decayed into hollow habitual objections or altogether disappeared. The single-party state is united in its abdication of all political power to a capitalist oligarchy, spearheaded by an oil tycoon who is now being hailed in the right-wing National Review as "The Conqueror". The state is now a garrison state to protect the imperialist interests of U.S. capital at the expense of the world's workers. Even members of the capitalist oligarchy can no longer deny that any pretense to democracy and the social well being of citizens has been dropped by the single-party state of owners. In a recent interview (to be published in Esquire), a former top aid to the Bush Administration, John J. DiIulio Jr. (appointed by Bush to head the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives) states that: "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis" (The Drudge Report 2002, December 1, 2002). DiIulio has since "apologized" for his criticism, under the pressure of White House Spokesperson Ari Fleisher, who knows that democratic debate has no place in a single-party dictatorship of capital. 

What is revealed by the collapse of the multi-party system is that the modern "democratic" state of "multiple parties", "civil rights", and national "self-determination"—at one time seemingly "immortalized" in the "United Nations"—has become outdated and has outlived its historical usefulness to imperialist capital. The "freedoms" of the modern "democratic" state, which were once necessary for the protection of the developing bourgeoisie (and helping it secure a domestic labor force to exploit), are becoming too restrictive for U.S. monopoly capital and, therefore, have to go. This is not a simple matter of a shift in political "policy". Rather, it is a historical matter of economic necessity for the ruling class. U.S. capital is in a deep crisis of profitability (overtly marked by the collapse of the telecom industry and the recent corporate scandals). Along with its (failed) strategy to buffer a decline in the rate of profit by appropriating millions of dollars from the retirement funds of U.S. workers, U.S. capital is in a ruthless pursuit of new profitable investments and new conditions of production by obtaining the rights to appropriate the oil and labor of Central Asia and the Middle East—which bourgeois democracy gets in the way of.

To state this more clearly: The readiness of the ruling class to dispense with the now outdated ("democratic") relations because they threaten profitability is a dramatic index of the deepening contradiction between the relentless global expansion and development of the productive forces that makes possible the meeting of all people's needs, and the efforts to ensure that production remains organized around private accumulation (profit). The old strategies of bourgeois democracy, which U.S. capital used to secure profit in the past, now stand in the way of the drive to concentrate global production in its own hands and gain access to new reserves of labor from which to extract a profit so as to ensure its dominance and competitiveness in the world economy. Today the ruling class has no use for bourgeois democracy, national sovereignty, civil rights—all of which increasingly get in the way of its capacity to accumulate profit. It is the crisis of profitability in capitalism, not "weapons inspection", that is behind the U.S. drive to dispense with the United Nations (that last bastion of bourgeois democracy) and its "countdown" to war with Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein (who represents a "national" capitalist competitor standing in the way of U.S. capital's monopoly over the global oil industry). U.S. capital is in crisis and requires a single-party "security" state of capitalist oligarchs which has dispensed with all questions of the "democratic self-determination" of nations and is single-minded in its focus on a ruthless redivision of the world to amass greater wealth from the world's workers and concentrate production and profit to meet its own economic needs.

It is in this context that the emphasis now paid to the need for "national security" to protect "our (democratic) way of life" should also be understood: as part of the ideological means by which the single-party capitalist oligarchy popularizes the narrow class interests of U.S. monopoly capital as in the general interests of "all Americans". "Our way of life" has been a way to bribe American workers into quiet consent: to produce a labor aristocracy which does not mind the acquisition of cheap Iraqi oil through the slaughter and exploitation of "other" workers in order to compensate for the "decent" living wages (by far the lowest in the advanced capitalist nations) that are denied to them by their "own" ruling class.

But behind the cultural slogans, and behind the economic mechanisms producing the consent of workers to the relations of exploitation, the economic relations of "American" capital tell a different story: not one of "democratic self-determination" of "our way of life" but of the parasitism of U.S. capital's dependence on the exploited labor of the world proletariat. This parasitism of U.S. imperialism—its theft of the surplus-labor of the international proletariat—and the concentration of production into fewer hands that is part and parcel of imperialist conquest not only is not in the historic class interests of the world working class in the struggle for a society free from exploitation of their collective labor, but is not even in the "immediate" interests of any workers. The rule of monopoly capital has led not to an increase but a decline in the standard of living of the majority of workers, including those in the U.S. where the productivity of labor is the highest in the world and where the wage gap has increased so dramatically that CEOs who made 39 times the average worker's wage 30 years ago now make 1000 times the average worker's wage.

"Our way of life", to put this another way, is the way of life of the ruling class—production for profit—which has always been a code for maintaining "them" in "their way of life"—as a cheap pool of readily exploitable surplus labor and a secure market for the products of the West. Far from bringing the promise of prosperity to all, the dictatorship of capital and its aggressive maintenance of private property relations to profit from the surplus-labor of workers ultimately "rewards" the increased productivity of the international proletariat with stagnation and decay of their conditions of life, with economic immiseration for the overwhelming majority and the constant threat to their basic life security. While the concentration of production in capitalism leads to increased productivity of the international proletariat—to the socialization of the productive forces around the world—the maintenance of relations of production based on private property (in which the few own and control the means of production and command over the surplus-labor of millions), requires increasingly drastic measures of economic, political, and military assault on workers.

If there is any question that the U.S. state is a dictatorship of capital against all workers, one only has to look at the readiness of Bush to threaten West Coast dock workers with a military assault if they strike for a safe workplace and other improvements to their living and working conditions. Like the dismantling of civil rights, of the welfare state, of bourgeois democracy…these are the historically necessary attempts, under capitalism, by a now unveiled dictatorship of capital to maintain increasingly outdated private property relations and try to "resolve" the crisis of profitability at the expense of workers. The only way to free all workers from exploitation (the theft of their surplus-labor) and the increasingly aggressive attack on their conditions of life in order to maintain relations of exploitation, is to free workers from this historical necessity for profit under capitalism. What is needed to struggle against the brutal dictatorship of capital—production for profit, which is always production for the few at the expense of the majority—is a dictatorship of the proletariat: production for need and freedom from necessity for all.

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