Friday, December 23, 2016

The current class struggle

The only true class struggle happening now is the struggle between the professional-managerial class (technocrats), represented by the Democratic party, and the capitalist class, represented by the Republican party. The working class is just along for the ride.

The technocrats seized state power in 1933 (FDR) and held it until 1980 (Reagan). After 1980, the technocrats changed orientation as more-or-less independent brokers between the capitalist and working classes and became, with Bill Clinton and later Barack Obama, the servants of the capitalist class. Surprisingly, this subservience was not enough for a large part of the capitalist class.

The capitalist class has two main factions: the first is willing to use the technocrats; the second wants to destroy the technocrats. We know they are true factions because the technocrat-friendly faction is willing to put its class interests first and work with the anti-technocrat Trump.

The technocrats themselves are all pro-capitalist: they want to help the capitalist class. They are literally dumbfounded — and have been for at least thirty years — that a substantial portion of the capitalist class not only refuses the technocrats' help but actually hates them.

Since I myself am mostly imbued with technocratic values, it's difficult for me to understand this antipathy. The independent technocrats "did capitalism" much better than the capitalist class; even the subservient technocrats did a better job managing capitalism than the capitalist class can do. The best explanation I can think of is that technocratic "competence" really is a thing, competence is what allows the technocrats to manage capitalism better than the capitalists, and the institutions necessary to develop competence cannot be "capitalized": technocratic institutions cannot be judged on any notion of capitalist profit. However, competent, a large number of capitalists just can't stand being subservient to anyone outside their class.

I suppose capitalist antipathy to the technocrats is best expressed in Atlas Shrugged, which is a polemic not against communism but against technocracy. (And it is possibly arguable that post-Stalin and post-Mao state "communism" were just different flavors of technocracy, with the Chinese version still extant.)

The most important point is that both the capitalists and the technocrats are dedicated to keeping the working class powerless; they differ only on strategy. The technocrat-friendly capitalists prefer the technocratic strategy, mostly welfare-dependency; the technocrat-hostile capitalists prefer a more thoroughly punishment-based approach. (The technocrats love punishment, of course; the anti-technocrats just want all stick and no carrot.)

The technocrats will fight as best they can for the restoration of the technocracy, or at least some privilege for technocrats in a capitalist-dominated society. I do not think they will be successful; the technocrats do not understand political power; perhaps because of their technocratic nature they cannot. The capitalists understand what the technocrats do not: you must utterly absorb or destroy your enemies; you cannot merely cripple them. In his remarks to Ron Suskind, Karl Rove (probably) outlined the difference:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore." He continued "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Much is made of the "progressive" Democrats, i.e. Bernie Sanders and his supporters and allies. They are trying to trade on the vague memory of the Democratic party's active support of labor; and they were successful only because the Clinton technocrats simply took urban and minority labor completely for granted. To the extent that the progressive Democrats actually want to give some power back to the workers, the technocrats will ally with the capitalists to crush them. The progressives might be useful to the socialists, but the progressives will not destroy the capitalists, and even if they are temporarily successful, the capitalists will quickly regain power: the capitalists learned much from their interregnum; the technocrats and progressives have learned nothing from their loss.


  1. Larry, you mention Atlas Shrugged.

    Have you ever read Atlas Drugged by Stephen Goldstein (the 99%-er counterpoint to Atlas Shrugged). Everybody who has read Atlas Shrugged should have to read Atlas Drugged.

    1. I have not. I will put it at the top of my reading list on your recommendation!


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