Class fractions

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Thu Dec 14 21:22:02 MST 2000


Hi Anthony:

>I am interested in figuring out the exact nature of the >conflicts
within the bourgeoisie of the United States

Anthony, this is an excellent question on which I have been thinking for
a while.

In thinking about the question you raise, I think that we enter into a a
long tradition of argument about whether or not classical distinctions
between various forms of capital make sense at _particular historical
moments_ .For instance, if you look at the United States, you will see
that the various economic policies undertaken during the  New Deal era
(Banking Reform of 1933) seperated the funtions of commercial and
investment banking. The purpose was to _diffuse_ the capitalist class
and prevent banking (financial capital) control over industrial capital.
This distinction is no longer relavant today due to the liberalization
of financial services, and the fact that the financial capitalists
always escaped this control by extending their ties to industry (hence
the distinction between  J P Morgan and Morgan Stanley). In Germany,
however,  a quiite different path of capitalist development emerged
during in the interwar period. Hilferding's concept of _finance
capital_, which Lenin further elaborated, was the product of what they
beleived to be  the fusion of _financial_ and _industrial capital_ that
had taken place in Hilferding's own time (rise of monopoly capitalism).
Of course, Hilferding considered the financial capitalists a
_speculative class_ who were subjugating the real economy (industry) to
bank control. The solution to control the speculative class was the
nationalizaiton of credit (which became the bourgeois/revisionist
orthodoxy of the German Social Democratic Party at the time).


In the US, the issue of finance capital (bank hegemony) did not emerge
due to the liberal economic policies adopted. What was rather at stake
was corporate liberalism. For this, you may want to see the writings of
New Gramsci scholar Van Der Pijl's _The Making of an Atlantic Ruling
Class_ It is really a historicized version of how money (financial) and
industrial (productive) capital  was merged under a "corporate liberal"
*synthesis* of political economy in the US till the end of the Bretton
Woods system and the world financial crisis that followed it. Pijl talks
about how the "corporate liberal" synthesis formed under a Keynesian US
hegemony (post war vision of a controlled liberal economic order& state
incorporation of working classes) transformed into a neo-liberal
hegemony still led by the United States in the 1980s (liberalization of
trade and finance to the _benefit_ of finance capitalists&Wall Street).
Since you said you were interested in fractions within the bourgeoisie
of the United States , you may like  his work ("Ruling  Classes,Hegemony
and the State System, Internatiional Journal of Political Economy, Vol
19, no,3, Fall 1990).

In paradoxical ways, however,  Gramscian scholars  influenced another
set of scholars in the  mainstream  tradition of "business conflict"
theory (neo-pluralists).  I have always wondered about whether there is
really a significant degree of difference between these two sets of
scholars, but I have found very little. _Fractionalist_ approach sort of
overstates the existence of fractions within the capitalist class and
ignores to see the overall unity&strategy of the capitalist class. They
also reduce the state as an instrumental  arena within which different
business elites fight to maximize their own share of power. For example,
it is argued that in the US, the State Department often seeks the advice
of business groups such as the Business Advisory Council, the Council on
Foreign Relations and the National Foreign Trade Council. In the area of
trade policy, these groups advance the interest of corporations who
favor free trade policies. On the contrary, regional trade associations
and local chamber of commerce advance a protectionist agenda supported
by less competitive domestic firms, demanding specific protection for
their own businesses (tariffs, quotas). While I find this distinction
between nationalist/internatonalist class analytically useful, it also
carries a bias in favor of free trade.


If we think US as an imperialist power, my own take of the issue  is
similar to the argument raised by Sweezy in his response business
conflict theorists Jeffrey Frieden in MR (1972). Sweezy rightly claims
that the distinction between nationalist/internationalist is not
watertight in the US. Certainly, unions located in heavy industry
(steel, auto) want to compete _internationally_  but still advocate
"fair trade" policies understood by _free traders_ as protectionist.
Furthermore, if you look at the writings of bourgeois scholars in the
business school (Reich, Magaziner, Thurow, Porter, Zysman, Tyson), you
will see that they clearly advocate US industrial _competitiveness_
abroad but still write in favor of  various forms of industrial policy
and protectionism. In my view,  It is hardly difficult to identify them
as protectionist per se.  They would probably _consider_ themselves as
internationalists in the sense that  they believe the policies they
recommend  are necessary to head off demands for protectionism.


So it seems to me that regardless of class distinctions within the US
bourgeosie/governing elites, _compettive/assertive market capitalism is
the key ideology that different classes subscribe in the US. Both
finance and industrial capitalists, for example, want to increase the
competitive of US firms abroad. They both need a strog strong state to
back up their imperialist activities in third world countries. The issue
of nationalism (conservative) versus internationalism (liberal) is
definitely not on the agenda of the  US capitalist class, it seems to
me.. Capitalists don't make such a conscious  distinction. E ven if such
a distinction exists, it still directed at getting other states, even
foreing capitalists, accept an international system led by the United
States (this is clear, for example,  in Louvre and Plaza accords forcing
Yen to appreciate in order to stimulate US exports)  .

Sweezy continues:

"Above all, it is important to keep in mind that all sectors of (US)
business are wrapped up in the same imperialist blanket. since the
health of the economy as a whole rests ultimately in the strength and
success of the dominant multinational manufacturers and bankers, and
since the entire capitalist class needs the stimulation of general
prosperity, the interests of nationals are not basically antagonistic
to those of the internationals. Conversely, the internationals need a
strong home in order to have, among other things, a dependable military
force to back up their widespread activities and a reliable national
currency into which their foreign earnings can ultimately be converted"


A hug,


Xxxx














--

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222



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