This capitalist system has an historical origin. It did not arise because a few people sat down and thought it all out. Examination of all phenomena shows that it arose because the basic determinant of the form that society takes is man’s method of getting a living. For example, when man was very largely at the mercy of the forces of nature, in order to survive he was compelled by those forces to combine to eke out an existence. He lived in conditions of primitive communism. There were no exploiters and exploited, no class divisions. But the level of life was very low. The Australian black people lived in conditions of primitive communism. As man developed and achieved a greater understanding of nature he achieved a greater mastery over nature. The first social organisation that reflected this was slavery, class division into minority masters and majority slaves, a great historical advance on primitive communism. The method of getting a living became still more advanced as man asserted a still greater mastery over nature. Feudalism replaced slavery. Feudalism was another step forward. Within feudalism there grew up more advanced methods of getting a living than the agricultural and handicraft pursuits of feudalism. Handicrafts, small scale agriculture, gave way to large scale production and large scale agriculture. Capitalism arose.
The change from one form of society to another was accomplished by man. It was always accompanied by violence, the overthrow of the slave owners by the slaves and those who had acquired land under slavery, the overthrow of the feudal lords by the new owners of more efficient means of production and by the feudal serfs. The English civil war of the 17th century was a case where this battle was fought, as was the French revolution of the 18th century.
Capitalist relations of production developed first in England.
Australia has known only two social epochs, that of the primitive communism of the black people and that of capitalism (preceded by a colonial autocracy over a penal colony). This is so despite efforts during the first white settlement to turn Australia into a semi-feudal rural dependency of Britain.
Each of the social epochs of slavery, feudalism, capitalism, gave rise to an apparatus to maintain respectively the domination of slave owner over slave, feudal overlord over feudal serf, capitalist over wage worker. The apparatus consisted fundamentally of special bands of armed men, an army to suppress any revolt against the rule of the slaveowner, feudal overlord or capitalist. It is not the present purpose to trace in detail the history of that development of the state apparatus in the different social epochs.
In Australia, the apparatus of state (the term “state” is used to describe public service, army, police, courts, gaols and not describe what are called States in Australia, for these States are provinces) maintains and enforces the system of exploitation described in Chapter 1.
It stands on guard to enforce the system whereby surplus value, profit, is appropriated by a small minority of owners from a large majority of non-owners. It enforces the maintenance of the system in which, while the process of production is socialised, ownership of the products so socially produced, is private. It prevents by coercion, by force, the seemingly logical step of extending socialised production into socialised ownership and of thereby providing for overall planning of production for use rather than having that production determined by the chaotic factor of private profit.
The Australian state apparatus exists fundamentally for the purpose of administering the affairs of the private owners of the means of production and preventing the revolt of the non-owners of the means of production, primarily the workers.
The state apparatus in Australia embraces the apparatus of the Australian government and the apparatus of the various States.
It consists of the public service departments, the army and police, the courts and gaols. Behind parliamentary elections, parliament, etc. stands this permanent apparatus of public service (commonly referred to as the bureaucracy), army and police, courts and gaols. Throughout all elections, all changes of governments, all changes of parliaments the public service is always there, the army and police are always there, the courts and gaols are always there. No election, no parliament, fundamentally changes these permanent bodies. Indeed part of the social “science” of capitalism is that the public service, army, police, courts, gaols stand aloof from parliamentary politics, maintaining their “independence” and existence despite parliamentary and governmental changes, “dispassionately” serving whatever parliamentary party is in office. In Australia’s capitalist history the state apparatus has remained as a permanent body.
What occurs in a change of government is that the new government simply has a certain (largely nominal) supervisory role over the permanent apparatus of state. There may be marginal differences in administration, changes of leading personnel, service to different groups of monopoly capitalists, but the differences are incidental to the permanence of the state apparatus and the social system it maintains and enforces.
All this is really based upon the fundamental fact of the method of getting a living in Australia, that is, the division between owners of means of production and non-owners. The state apparatus has come into being to serve that division. It is not independent of it at all. It is based upon it. It exists to maintain it. The state apparatus is the state apparatus of the owners of the means of production and is a critical, vital weapon for them in the protection of those means of production against the non-owners and particularly against the workers.
The division between owners and non-owners has got sharper and deeper. As a matter of historical fact the process is a process of fewer and fewer owners and more and more non-owners, basically workers. Monopoly owners eliminate lesser owners. The process of takeovers, mergers, lesser owners being ruined, results in separation out of a few gigantic owners. Historically these gigantic owners own more and more mighty factories in which the number of workers employed constantly increases. Then with technological advance many workers are thrown into unemployment. The potential of challenge by the non-owners to the owners constantly deepens. Along with this grows (must grow because the threat of challenge by workers and other sections of the population gets more serious) the strengthening of the state apparatus.
The consequences of the fetters which capitalist relations of production, protected by the state apparatus, place upon the productive forces are widespread and catastrophic.
In the economic field, the crisis of overproduction is not confined to the workers who are first to suffer with wholesale unemployment. Small shopkeepers, small producers and manufacturers, small and medium farmers and finally even quite large capitalist businesses are forced on the road of bankruptcy and ruin.
As pointed out by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto in 1848:
The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class.
These sections impelled by fear of being forced down into the ranks of the workers, form a valuable source of allies for the workers in the struggle against the might and policies of the multinationals.
They are at one and the same time both impelled forward and held back. They fear the consequences of untrammelled power of the multinationals, yet they fear the thorough-going change of society which the working class would introduce.
They are progressive in so far as they form part of the great front of struggle for independence against the multinationals, against foreign ownership and control.
They are reactionary in so far as they seek to turn the clock back to pre-monopoly days hankering after a place among the bourgeoisie hoping for the impossible, an independent capitalist Australia.
The workers can both unite with them and struggle against them.
Again the state apparatus basically has not come into being as the result of some brilliant idea of man. It has come into being as a historical necessity to maintain the dominance of the owners of the means of production. Certainly the action and will of man play a part. But men (the monopolists) are impelled by social necessity, by the very forces and relations of production, by the mechanism of exploitation, to strengthen the state apparatus. To a greater or lesser degree they develop consciousness and discuss their tactics of struggle. Still they have “free will” only within comparatively narrow bounds.
The state apparatus in Australia originally was that of the British colonial authorities. The British army was its chief component. As capitalist economy developed in Australia, the state apparatus altered; it reflected the change and in turn served that change. The state took on more of an Australian character. Its public service, army and police, courts and gaols came to be manned by Australians. But because the lifelines of capitalist economy in Australia were dominated by British owners, the state apparatus necessarily still largely served them. In the British tactics of rule, the authorities were compelled to pay attention to the growth of Australian owners, to the growth of an Australian sentiment. The British authorities made concessions. Again these concessions did not arise from beneficence but were concessions forced by economic and social factors. These factors compelled struggle by man, struggle of many kinds. Certainly men became conscious of these factors, and within definite economic and social limits man’s will, struggle, influenced the process.
British imperialism declined, American imperialism grew. The state apparatus in Australia reflected this change. It is a social law of imperialism, deduced from and demonstrated by the observed facts, that there is uneven development of capitalism, imperialism. The old dies away. The new arises. This occurs independently of the will of man. But it is carried out by men. Men are impelled by the economic and social factors. U.S. investment rapidly and aggressively increased. The Australian state apparatus largely served this rapid and aggressive increase. Consciousness of the process was reflected in a World War II statement by the then Australian Prime Minister (Curtin) which frankly and explicitly recognised the primary position for Australia of U.S. imperialism. The expansion of U.S. industry in Australia after World War II obeyed the social laws of imperialist expansion. Capitalism must expand or burst. This is its economic, material nature. The state apparatus strengthened its oppression of the people to accord with this. The fundamental contradiction of capitalism, that between the productive forces and the relations of production, expressed itself in Australia as that between the workers on the one hand and on the other the owners of the means of production, the decisive core of which were U.S. multinationals. Around that basis the contradiction expressed itself immediately as workers and other working people against the U.S. multinationals and their Australian partners.
In the mid-fifties the Soviet Union began world imperialist expansion. It greatly accelerated expansion in the mid-sixties when it had “settled” internal issues of socialism or capitalism in the Soviet Union in favour of capitalism and imperialist expansion. It too entered the Australian field. It began a challenge to U.S. imperialism. Just as at the outset of U.S. expansion into Australia there was acute battle between the British occupiers, owners, and the U.S. would-be owners so now there is acute conflict between the U.S. owners (who defeated the British) and the Soviet would-be owners.
All this is reflected in the state apparatus. It responds to the changes in the forces that basically shape it and which it exists to serve.
The Australian state apparatus has come into being and taken its present shape to prevent the resolution of the contradiction that expresses itself in socialised production in the great factories and private ownership of them. In social terms it involves the Australian workers and other sections of people allied to them (non-owners) being kept in control by the owners of the means of production centered around the U.S. owners, growing Soviet owners, other imperialist owners and the “partners” of them.
The non-owners are impelled to struggle to resolve the contradiction. The main aspect of that contradiction lies in the ownership of the great means of production and the non-ownership by workers engaged in socialised production within those means of production. Alongside those workers are others oppressed because of the foreign and local monopoly ownership of those means of production.
In Australia there is a capitalist unity, entity. It is composed of contradiction, basically workers and multinational owners. Without two aspects of the contradiction, Australian capitalist society would not exist. There would be no such thing.
Because the process of production in the decisive way of getting a living is already socialised, the resolution of the contradiction can only be to extend that socialised production into socialised ownership. This is what the working class in Australia is compelled to do irrespective of what this or that Australian worker thinks about it. Many do think and act about it. Their thought and action are of vital importance. The workers do become conscious of this necessity, understand it and so act the more effectively. On the other hand, the owners of the means of production become conscious of the challenge and act to resist it. Their chief weapon of resistance is the compulsion, the force, of the state apparatus.
Thus the state apparatus is the focus of struggle. It is a crucial force in the question whether the workers and those around them will extend socialised production into socialised ownership (and also solve the problems of social groups around them) or whether individual ownership will continue to appropriate the fruits of socialised production, and continue to restrict the further development of the productive forces.
It is inevitable that the conflict will be resolved in favour of the non-owners. Private ownership has become a fetter on production itself. For example, such are the vested interests in given fields of industry that progress in the development of the productive forces is actually hindered. Inventions are suppressed, commodities destroyed, because the owners cannot make sufficient profit. Where inventions advance, are not suppressed but used for more profit making, they inflict great hardship in unemployment, intensified exploitation, etc. Large numbers of working people are made redundant by automation, computers, etc. What commenced as a historically progressive social process has become a restrictive social process.
Historically, capitalism called into being great factories where huge numbers of workers were concentrated. The total irrationality of this system is shown by the effect of technological advance. Technological advance under capitalism is dictated by competition for profit. Each capitalist strives to increase his production and reduce his labour costs. Hence today, computers displace large numbers of workers including even typists, automatic lifts displace liftmen, iron ore is taken by advanced machinery, transported by a handful, cargo ships become container ships with mechanical loading and unloading, wheat, sugar, flour are loaded in bulk. So it goes on. They are forced into surviving mass production industries where a similar process threatens their jobs, or a few are compelled to acquire a certain higher technical skill such as computer programmer, or more commonly, are forced into unemployment.
There is everything correct about technological progress but it points up the reactionary, degenerate position capitalism has reached when the result of that technological process is to increase unemployment, to increase production when commodities cannot be sold at a profit. It points up the barrier constituted by the existing social system to the further development of technology.
Thus where there is huge investment in capital goods (machinery, etc.) in industry, particularly a monopoly or small scale industry, there is a tendency to suppress advances in technology. But the drive for profit and bitter competition leads one capitalist to improve technology; the other must follow or be ruined. Many are ruined and flung into the ranks of workers or unemployed.
The absurdity of the thing is the inevitable result of the historically outmoded system of capitalism.
Experience has shown that no social class which owned the means of production ever voluntarily forsook ownership. The state apparatus exists to protect it; hence such a social class never voluntarily surrenderd the state apparatus.
The chief component of that state apparatus is constituted by the army and the police. The Australian army and police basically exist to protect by force the owners of the means of production, to prevent the resolution of the contradiction in favour of the non-owners, the workers.
Indeed as the division between owners and non-owners deepens, the army and police are strengthened. This is because there is actual even though limited revolt. Where there is no actual revolt, still beneath the surface there is always the potentiality of that revolt. The constant preoccupation of the thinking representatives of the owners is how to prevent that revolt. The constant preoccupation of the non-owners and their conscious representatives is how to resolve the contradiction, how to extend socialised labour into socialised ownership. Each side constantly thinks over, discusses, its tactics of struggle.
This is the very kernel of politics in Australia. It concerns the question of ownership of the means of production and necessarily involves the question of who owns the state power and the nature of that state power. So long as the state apparatus and particularly its key organs, the police and army, remains in the hands of the owners their ownership is safe, exploitation is safe, surplus value is safe and the contradiction between socialised production and individual ownership is maintained. History is held back. As was said the basic contradiction in Australia is that between the all-powerful, expanding forces of production on the one hand and on the other the restrictive relations of production (namely ownership by the minority with dependence by the vast majority).
Accordingly the state apparatus in such conditions is necessarily reactionary. It exists to hold back the process that would bring the relations of production into conformity with the means of production, the productive forces. This would mean automation, computers etc. would be at the service of the useful people rather than a scourge to them. The progressive expanding revolutionary character of the productive forces with modern methods of production, advanced science, ever new inventions, can only be given unrestricted development by having relations between men that remove restrictions on the development of those productive forces. This can occur only when the relations among men conform to the socialised process of production. When that happens the advance of the productive forces can occur. To repeat, it means extension of the socialised productive process into socialised ownership, socialism. In Australia, the immediate step is to remove the multinationals and their collaborators.
The state apparatus prevents that. Hence the central question is the defeat, overthrow, destruction, of that apparatus in Australia. Only in that way is the way opened for the full development of the productive forces and the conformity of the relations of men to them.
Such an undertaking is a matter of life and death to the owners of those means of production. It is equally a matter of life and death chiefly to the workers and to all sections of the people around them. If the contradiction is not resolved and this state apparatus not got rid of, then the workers are doomed to unemployment, poverty, misery, oppression, for these are the essential products of capitalism, the farmers are doomed to dispossession and expropriation, the lesser capitalists and businesses to ruin. If it is got rid of, then their future is bright. That it will be got rid of is absolutely certain but when and how are questions that must be faced and must be carefully examined.
The army and police are the armed guards of private property. By private property is not meant the private possessions of individuals but the private property of ownership of the means of production, the factories, land etc. The fundamental (not the only) purpose of the army and police is to prevent seizure by the non-owners of the private property in the factories and in huge tracts of land. Hence in Australia at all critical social turns, the army has been used or has been in the immediate background. In the innumerable strikes and demonstrations that are an everyday occurrence in Australia the police are always (without exception) there to act against the workers and those other sections around the workers. Involved in this is no reflection on the personnel of the police forces (it clearly enough is composed of indoctrinated armed thugs) but it is to make the point that of historical, social necessity, this is the function of the police forces.
Accordingly the correct resolution of the contradiction between the socialised process of production and individual ownership of the products so socially produced depends on overcoming those armed guards. The non-owners, basically those engaged in the socialised process of production, must overcome the armed guards of the comparative handful of owners. This can only be done by the armed people – the people’s army. Without such an army, naturally the armed guards of the owners have it all to themselves. In this context without an army, without arms, the people have nothing. The absence of a people’s army enables the owners to maintain their ownership, their system of exploitation. Thus while all the factors of advanced production, increasing socialisation of the process of production are pushing forward, the army and police of the owners are holding it all back, preserving the restrictive relations of production. The historical process necessarily involves the people in overthrowing that army and police.
While the army and police are the core of the state apparatus they are by no means the only components of the state apparatus.
The permanent public service ensures administration for the owners and against the non-owners. It merely illustrates the process to point to the inter-changeability of leading personnel of the multinational owners and other monopoly capitalists with the public service and vice versa. Irrespective of the many specific cases of that sort of thing, the very function of the public service is to administer Australia in service to the owners. Many departments of the public service explicitly show that. Such, for example, are the departments of trade, of business affairs, of minerals and resources, others are explicitly connected with administration of the army, police, courts, gaols. Others, such as the department of social services, seem more remote. These latter oil the process of exploitation. In the various public service departments the actual work of the Australian state is done. The administration is wholly and solely for the owners of the means of production even though some public service departments may seem remote from that administration. The public service maintains this continuity of administration through all the vicissitudes of parliamentary change (the position of parliament will be examined shortly.) Continuity is not something fortuitous nor is the loyalty of top public servants to their job. It has little or nothing to do with such ideas. (Those ideas certainly involve and support it). Its continuity is because it is always the civil arm of the owners of industry, land etc., whereas the army is the military arm. It is not only based upon the assumption of permanence of that ownership but serves that permanence. It is because of the very fact of the “permanence” that there is a permanent public service, a public service above “parliamentary party politics”, “above class struggle,” “independent”, “loyal”. The very use of the word “loyal” raises the question – loyal to what and to whom? “Loyal” in this regard means loyal to the administration of the affairs of the owners. There have been many changes of government in Australia yet the Australian public service has gone on, capitalism has developed.
Along with the direct public service are various corporate and statutory bodies. Instances are the Industries Assistance Commission, Trade Practices bodies, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Trans-Australia Airlines. These serve the owners for specific purposes.
Of great importance are the law, the courts and gaols. These serve essentially a lesser (than the army and police) day-to-day coercive role against the non-owners in the maintenance of the ownership of the means of production. The law, and the courts to administer it, discharge the function of regulating overall the functions of the owners and of resolving the lesser disputes that constantly arise between owners and non-owners and, even as a side issue, disputes amongst the owners. They exert the coercion of gaol, fines and lesser penalties. The gaols exist as custodians, receptacles, fundamentally for the rebels against ownership. Some of the people who get into gaol have quite wrong ideas, some are misfits. They are mainly the victims in one way or another of capitalism. The ultimate purpose of gaols is to deal with the rebellious workers who, guided by scientific ideas of socialism, rebel against capitalist society. The Australian gaols have been used against the black people, against the rebellious miners last century, against rebellious workers in all struggles, against Australian patriots who struggled against Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, who struggled against the U.S. imperialist aggression in Vietnam, who struggled against “sale” of Australian resources to imperialist powers etc.
In the resolution of the contradiction between socialisation of the process of production and individual ownership these instruments of the owners necessarily must be dismantled and replaced by instruments that serve the hitherto non-owners.
The historical task for the progress of Australia is to build a state machine that will serve the vast majority of people the centre of whom is constituted by the workers engaged in the socialised process of production that has already developed in the industries of the multinational owners.
In order to do that, the workers are compelled to unite all sections of the people whose interests are harmed by private multinational and local monopoly capitalist ownership of the means of production. They are compelled to resist and overcome the armed force of the state apparatus by their own (and that of their allies) armed force – a people’s army.