Friday, 16 November 2007

Branch Meeting: Economic Blocs and Money

At Thursday night's branch meeting, comrade F gave a short lead off on the history of money, financial crisis, and what would happen to money in a socialist society. I hope the comrade won't mind if I skip over his comments on money's history, and proceed to the issues that provoked discussion

F raised a few pointers about the tendency within global capital toward the setting up of regional blocs, of which the European Union is the most advanced example. He showed how the Euro is intrinsic to the EU project, and is breaking a path for the African Union, and to a lesser extent, the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, and NAFTA. It is also likely the dynamics of global capital may encourage further centralising processes. Global economic bodies could assume even greater influence than is wielded by the IMF and World Bank now. One interesting point F also picked up on was the linkage between state forms and currencies - as the Euro was as much the offspring of the EU proto-state as it was of the coincidence of continental capital's interests, moves in this direction by other economic blocs will proceed side by side with the growth of cross border bureaucracies with their own supranational, albeit regional, aspirations. This being the case, after capitalism has suffered its permanent and irreversible defeat at the hands of the global working class, is it likely that money will wither away with the state?

Beginning with the withering away of money, D thought this was likely, though J added it very much depended on the concrete circumstances in which socialist revolution takes place. For example, as we saw in the case of Russia, a moneyless society cannot be constructed within the borders of a single, internationally isolated country.

P flagged up the contradictions of the EU and AU projects. On the one hand, the EU bureaucracy is a neoliberal tool in the hands of capital, but the centralisation of political authority and capital across the Eurozone territory could open up certain political opportunities for deepening the internationalism of the European labour movement. In the case of the AU, a centralised bureaucracy and currency could open up developmental processes that have not been possible due to the continent's history of weak, semi-colonial states.

A disagreed. Whereas Marx and Engels welcomed the development of nation states in the 19th century as agents that facilitate development, broadly speaking that was in capitalism's progressive phase. From the early 20th century and the division of the world into imperialist spheres of interest, that was no longer the case. Turning to the Euro, A felt it would not be taken up by other countries because of the contradiction between the conditions inside the Eurozone and outside it. In fact, it is possible the reforms that made the Euro possible could head into reverse. So far, continental capital has reaped the benefits of a period of stable accumulation, but if that was to change, the national interests of German, French, Italian, etc. capital would reassert themselves and the financial unity symbolised by the Euro and the European Central Bank torn asunder.

Replying to this, P argued if the Euro continues to strengthen internationally and Britain's trade with the Eurozone remains on an upward trajectory, the more attractive entry will be to "our" ruling class. Up until now, what has prevented Britain from doing so is the centrality of finance capital to the interests of the British bourgeoisie, which is very much bound up with the City of London remaining at the centre of global finance capital. The second key variable is the widespread opposition of the British population to monetary union. On economic crisis, P was doubtful the Euro would fragment back into national currencies. He suggested the ruling class would find other ways of insulating themselves against any crisis, such as accelerating EU expansion to allow flows of cheap labour from the East and Turkey into the metropolitan heartlands. This itself would have certain consequences, such as anti-immigration sentiment, and, ironically, the progressive integration of the European working class. The key is socialists must have a flexible response to crisis.

The remainder of the discussion was taken up with the discussion of the moneyless society, where comrades contrasted how we fight for socialist politics with the SPGB, despite our identical objectives. Summing up, F reiterated that you could not move from a society premised on the accumulation of capital for accumulation's sake to one based on production for need overnight.


Darren said...

Hi Phil,

Interesting reprise of your branch's talk.

To be honest, I think that's the first time I've read the SP/CWI tradition talking in terms of the ultimate abolition of money.

Could you point to any texts from your press/tradition (preferably online given my location) that goes into this in more detail.

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Phil BC said...

Hi Darren

I can't point to anything off the top of my head, as you know the tradition has never been one to go in for abstract propagandising, lol. But seriously, this is the idea of socialism nearly all SP comrades I've spoken to have, although some (as you may expect) speak about the abolition of money as a property of communism rather than the 'lower phase' of socialism. Come to think of it, I've never personally encountered anyone from any tradition who believes money wouldn't be abolished.

Got a blog post to write.

Darren said...

" I've never personally encountered anyone from any tradition who believes money wouldn't be abolished."

Erm, I've encountered hundreds. ;-)

Hurry up and finish your posts, ffs. It'll soon be time for Socialism 2008 ;-)

Phil BC said...

Your wish is my command!

On the money issue, are you sure you're not mixing non-abolitionists with those who think money would wither away?

Off to bed. Play nicely now.

Phil BC said...

Btw, is there not a WSM group in the US?

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I'm sure trotsky discusses this issue in The Revolution Betrayed. But definitely, all the comrades I know agree with this.

Darren said...


there is a group in the States, but for the first year and a half of being over here I didn't transfer my membership because of the whole rigmarole of going through immigration.

Couldn't be arsed to getting round to changing the byline 'cos I liked the play on the old Simon and Garfunkel tune. It's not often I'm so inspired.

With regards to the withering away versus abolition question, it's struck me that, in my experience, the people from the various vanguardist traditions I've encountered have been more inclined to subscribe to the politics of 'socialism' as opposed to the higher stage of 'communism'.

I guess it's not that surprising as it's the former programme that people are attracted to and recruited into,rather than the latter, and as you mentioned above it does appear that there isn't a readily available text to hand which goes into this aspect of your (ultimate) case.

PS - apologies if the above is a bit garbled. I'm a bit spaced at the mo'. I may come back to it.

Phil BC said...

No problem, Darren. Also, I will be responding to the Russian Revolution debate in a future post, if you want to pass that on.