marxism-digest V1 #5132

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Sun Nov 10 14:20:46 MST 2002

> If a Republican Party candidate now ran for
> president with the same platform as Richard Nixon's in 1970, he'd be
> denounced as a traitor to the party.

> Indeed!  The fact is that no Democrat could run now a days
> with Nixon's platform which included proposals for
> national health insurance and a guranteed income.
> Clinton's proposals for national health care were
> far less ambitious than Nixon's.  Anybody who
> ran on Nixon's proposals would be denounced
> as a dangerous lefty, and The Nation would be
> pusblishing editorials warning liberals and leftists
> that they must be more "realistic."

In 1968 (or thereabouts) Nixon declared, "We're all Keynesians now."

Nixon's economic platform in 1968 represented probably the last
*substantial* promise of the postwar boom.  Since the boom ended in the
early 1970s, the main thing in the advanced capitalist countries has
been to lower workers' living standards and, probably more insidiously,
to lower workers' expectations.  If expectations had've been maintained
then even driving sown living standards somewhat would not have been so
disastrous for the working class - the possibility of serious, long-term
resistance would have remained.

The lowering of expectations also brings us to the issue of LPs in
Europe and Australasia.  The lowering of expectations is where these
Labour-type outfits have been of particular use.  In NZ the LP was to
the right of the traditional Tory party (National Party) on economic
issues for most of the 1980s, and carried out the biggest assault on
workers' living standards since the depression.  Louis made the point
that the 1973 coup in Chile was in his view the critical turning point
where things moved right economically.  It's interesting that in NZ, it
was Labour which carried through the economic model pioneered by
Pinochet in Chile.  NZ, it is widely accepted among scholars, carried
out the model cloest to Chile in terms of the bourgeois-democratic
states.  It may have been impossible to do this under National.  Labour
was really required by the NZ bourgeoisie for that job.

It is also LPs in Australasia and Europe which have been the most
important parties for lowering workers' horizons and therefore
demobilising the class.  It took parties with worker support and some
roots in the working class to pull that one off.  The logic being that
if even 'workers parties' were saying that belts had to be tightened,
then it must be true.  But the result has been the loss of those roots
in the class.  This has taken place at different paces and to varying
degrees in different First World countries.

In NZ it has gone the furthest as NZ was in the weakest economic
situation of the First World countries once the postwar boom ended.
Also the National Party, in power here from 1975-84, didn't pursue a
full-on attack on the working class.  Muldoon tended to resort to much
greater levels of state intervention and public spending and borrowing,
to try to keep a more Keynesian-style approach going.  So the crisis
intensified.  When Labour came to power in 1984, it therefore carried
out policies which would have been economically to the right of Reagan
and Thatcher, while getting rid of a load of old social conventions and
formal discrimination.

Labour's 'New right' policies in NZ succeeded brilliantly in giving
capitalists a chunk of public sector assets at knock-down prices,
disorienting the working class, removing the unions as any kind of even
semi-effective factor in society, and so on.  Yet they coudn't
revitalise the economy, labour productivity continued to lag well behind
Australia and other countries as the capitalists were still not prepared
to make the huge investments necessary in the productive sector to
increase productivity of workers - they preferred investing in the
financial sector which parasitises off production and therefore helps
maintain the stagnation of the productive economy.  Interestingly,
Labour in NZ - and I gather in Australia and Britain - particularly
attracts these most parasitic capitalist elements.

One of the most important political conclusions to be drawn from these
events is that workers' horizons cannot be raised *without fighting the
Labour parties*.  The fact that sections of the left maintain the
fiction of Labour as workers parties and therefore favour 'united
fronts' with them simply reinforces the lowered horizons which these
parties have hammered into the working class.  A hundred years ago, it
was vital to form real workers parties independent from the Liberal
parties, which untied workers, middle class and capitalists - now a
critical task is to form workers parties independent from the Labour
parties which unite the same social forces as the old Liberal parties

Philip Ferguson

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