Monday, February 20, 2017

The deep state *is* the state

Much excitement in the States (but also in Brexit Britain) about elements of the state apparatus actively working to undermine the policies of an 'insurgent' government.

The governments in question are of the right, not the extreme left, but the founders of Marxism were clear that a truly revolutionary government cannot just take over the 'controls' of a 'neutral' state apparatus. They will be thwarted at every turn.

This is, of course, true of all bureaucracies. Successful 'turnaround' CEOs bring their own posse of senior managers - and waste no time clearing out the old regime. If they don't, their mission is toast. The political right, in order to to secure their victory, will have to purge the state of their enemies and repopulate it with supporters in their own ideological image.

Marxists, however, are seldom called out on what they think should replace the bourgeois state. Lenin and Trotsky, following the model of the Paris Commune, thought that the mobilised masses, organised in soviets (councils), would constitute a non-bureaucratic socialist state - a social formation not separate from broader society.

Marx himself never wrote much about it.

Yet the state is neither a contingent formation nor just 'bodies of armed men' safeguarding existing property relations. The state has an enormous, and under-analysed, role in social-coordination.

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Turn now to the economy. All Marxists agree that their post-capitalist economic model will replace private decision-making about the allocation of resources with 'consciously democratic', centrally-planned directives.

Given the complex and highly-technical nature of policy-making and implementation, both as regards the state and the putative planned-economy, this is not going to something managed by the masses through their councils. Nor is it going to be that old favourite, the mere 'administration of things, not of people'.

The PDF version is here

It's hard to resist the conclusion that - until the AIs take over (and where does that leave us?) - the post-capitalist state will continue to be large, bureaucratic and unresponsive. Much like the bourgeois state.

History tends to support that view.

I would guess that Marxists would not agree, but for people proposing a radical makeover of society's fundamentals, they seem remarkably coy about their proposed replacement model.

Such studied casualness wouldn't work in engineering.

Why does the far left get a free pass on something of such fundamental importance?

2 comments:

  1. There is a view that what the old Soviet Union (and hence a similar Marxist state) really needed was good automation to support its "Central Planning" idea. For both hardware and software reasons this did not materialise (in time).

    So what Research Programme should the Commissar for Automated Central Planning have commissioned?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variety_(cybernetics).

    ReplyDelete

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