To camouflage and support the reality of ownership and non-ownership, of coercion to maintain it, there are many devices used by the owners of the means of production.
These devices require a little comment.
It is not sufficient for the owners of the means of production to rely solely on coercion. It is necessary also to rely upon “public opinion”, to persuade a significant number of people that the social system, where ownership of the means of production is in the hands of a tiny minority and non-ownership is the fate of the vast majority, is desirable. Hitler’s Germany was the classic case of open resort to force to maintain private ownership of the means of production. Nonetheless Hitler relied also on “public opinion”, on deception.
What then are the weapons in Australia of creating “public opinion”, of relying upon deception?
There are many and they have many sides.
Among the chief methods are parliament, parliamentary elections and parliamentary parties along with “theories” of social science that go with them.
The critical, decisive features of the state apparatus have been dealt with. While these features exist quite independent of parliament, parliamentary elections and parliamentary parties, it is made to appear that these critical features are dependent upon parliament, parliamentary elections and parliamentary “government”. Social “science” aids that appearance. In itself this has a long history. That history has reached the stage in Australia where an Australian parliament and six State parliaments are presented as central to Australian politics. This is said to be government of the people for the people by the people achieved by universal suffrage in an election for choice of which parliamentary party will have the majority. That party which has the majority constitutes the government in office responsible to the parliament which is responsible to the people.
All this occurs wholly on the basis of ownership of the means of production by that tiny minority and on the basis of the existence of the coercive state apparatus to protect and enforce that ownership. The ownership and coercive state apparatus go on. You may vote for whom you please but your vote or a majority of votes will not alter that ownership nor the nature of the coercive state apparatus. Hence the parliamentary election only confirms multinational, monopoly capitalist ownership of the means of production and ownership of the coercive state apparatus. The parliamentary party that holds office, exercises something of a superficial supervisory role over the army and police, the public service, the courts and the gaols. Certainly the government in office will lean to one section of the owners as against another; that will influence to a degree the direction of use of the state apparatus but not change the nature of that apparatus. It is quite wrong to talk about such a government being elected to “power”. It is not. It is simply elected to office to supervise in a marginal way the power that exists in the owners (monopolies) through that permanent coercive state apparatus. That coercive state apparatus at all times functions for the owners of the means of production, as does parliament itself.
Social “science” says that the electors have a choice between political parties. It is made to appear that these parties have great and fundamental differences, even that one is a party of the owners of the means of production and the other a party of the non-owners. In Australia, there have emerged the Liberal-National Country Party (Parties) allegedly to represent the owners, (though those parties also purport to represent the people), and the Labor Party to represent the non-owners, (though this party also purports to represent the owners). It is true that there are marginal differences between the two parties, particularly as to tactics. They are used also by one monopolist interest against another. But on the central question of ownership of means of production and coercive state apparatus they are united. Each of them proceeds on the assumption of its correctness, its permanence.
The very purpose of such parliamentary parties is to feed the illusion of free choice, of democracy.
The Labor Party in Australia is particularly important. Although it in no way challenges either the permanent state apparatus or the owners of the means of production whom that state apparatus serves, it is presented and presents itself as a party of the workers, even of socialism (while also purporting to serve the owners).
Allied to this Party is what is called the “trade union movement”, that is, the structure of trade unions and their central bodies that has grown up in Australia and been rather carefully fitted into the apparatus of state, fitted into supervision by the apparatus of state. In the twenties, Mr. Justice Isaacs (later a Governor-General of Australia) said: “An ’organisation’ (i.e. trade union) is the creation of the Act (i.e. Arbitration Act) and simply as incidental to its great purpose. It is permitted to come into existence for the very purpose, not of making the policy of the statute under the Constitution more difficult of attainment, but of assisting to carry that policy into effect. Its primary function is to help in the effort to maintain industrial peace as a convenient instrument to secure, for those whose interests it represents, industrial justice where necessary, but to secure that justice according to law. Those who become members of such an organisation, and particularly those who undertake the duty of managing its affairs, whether in supreme or in subordinate authority, take a part more or less responsible in an association which is not merely a convenient method of obtaining their just rights, but is also a public instrument for effectively administering an important statute of public policy for the general welfare. Such an organisation secures rights and privileges, but it has also duties.” (35 Commonwealth Law Reports 475-6).
This structure depends upon men. Trade unions came into existence in order to protect the workers and so that they could use collective strength to fight for better wages and improved conditions. From primitive, spontaneous organisation and acute struggle against employers, they won concessions from those employers. After vainly resisting the existence of trade unions, the employers altered their tactics to turn the trade union organisation to their own advantage. This could never be achieved by planting open nominees of employers in the trade unions. This purpose was achieved in the advanced capitalist countries by cultivating trade union leaders and by the evolution of sections of the workers with more highly paid or privileged positions. From these emerged loyal servants of the owners, servants who in fact came from among the workers, seemingly served the workers but in reality served the employers. These constitute the trade union bureaucracy, a highly sophisticated system in Australia. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is its supreme development. This whole structure constitutes a major prop of capitalism in Australia.
The leaders of the Labor Party occupy a similar position. There is a close affinity between the trade union leaders and the Labor Party and between the Labor Party organisation and the “trade union movement.”
In the case of the “trade union movement” not only does it rest upon the permanence of capitalism in Australia but it serves that very permanence. It does that in basically two ways namely its fitting into the supervision of the state apparatus as shown by Mr. Justice Isaacs and even more important by the ideas it generates and disseminates among the workers. These are ideas of non-rebellion against, adherence to, capitalism, confining the workers to economic struggle which necessarily proceeds on the footing of the permanence of capitalism. (Economic struggle is important, but it must be seen as a part of the struggle against the causes of economic hardship, namely the social system.)
Were the Labor Party and the “trade union movement” to constitute themselves opponents of that state apparatus then that state apparatus could scarcely survive. This is because, while its chief function is coercion, it must also rely upon “public opinion”, upon acceptance by the people. That acceptance greatly depends upon the Labor Party and “trade union movement.”
The Labor Party serves an essential function in the operation of the parliamentary system. It provides one side of the “contending” parties in parliament. But as we have seen, parliament never touches upon the critical question of the ownership of means of production by the tiny handful, nor upon the state apparatus used to enforce that ownership. The Labor Party itself certainly never touches on these critical questions. It acts as a parliamentary party. It is a party born of capitalism and serving an institution of capitalism. On to it have been grafted some workingclass features but they do not change its character as a party of capitalism. In a sense it is doubly deceptive, because it is itself a party that is presented and presents as a workers’ party, whereas it serves capitalism and serves the institution of parliament which conceals the reality of coercion that lies in the state apparatus.
Parliamentary politics are made to appear to be all politics, to cover the field of politics. The appearance of those parliamentary politics is of a contest between the Labor Party and the Liberal-National Country Party. All this seemingly goes on outside what is really the critical question of politics, state power. On this aspect of the matter it does not matter in a fundamental sense which parliamentary party wins an election, because such an election leaves quite untouched the two central questions of the ownership of means of production and the state apparatus to protect that ownership. In reality the competition between the parliamentary parties reduces itself to a competition as to the spoils of office. In addition it is a tactical question. Because of people’s illusions about the Labor Party (that it serves their interests) it is advantageous for the monopolies to use it in times of crisis. On marginal and even on important tactical matters, the two Parties may differ. Certainly within definite limits they can influence in different ways the direction of policy. Moreover they reflect competing interests within the capitalist class. Internally in each Party there is conflict, again a reflection of competing interests in the capitalist class. They can differ as to whether the emphasis in the functioning of the state apparatus ought to be on coercion or on soft tactics. These are in truth incidental matters even though at times they are very important. But they do not alter the fact that state power remains in the hands of the monopoly owners of the means of production. It has been well said that universal suffrage, the right of every one to vote, is an index of the maturity of the working class. It has also been well said that universal suffrage offers the people the chance once every several years to choose which member of the ruling class will misrepresent them in parliament. Parliament is merely a figleaf for coercion.
The dissemination of social “theories” that centre round parliament and the trade union structure is an essential part of the “rule by parliament”. Not only has a parliament evolved (it was the product of the struggle by the nascent capitalist class against feudalism) but along with it a whole system of ideas based upon its “virtues”. It is heretical to question these “virtues”.
All this illustrates the fact that there must be a whole system of ideology, a whole set of ideas to support the coercive system by a state apparatus which operates for the few owners against the many non-owners. There must be a reliable ideological basis. Ideas must serve to perpetuate and justify it. “Public opinion” must be moulded to accept it all.
In Australia there is indeed a powerful network to do this. Take the system of organised education. It proceeds from start to finish, from primary tuition to the most advanced tertiary tuition, upon the assumptions of capitalism: the superiority of capitalism, its permanence, its “democracy”, its independent judiciary and so on. Its press proceeds in the same way. It has its television and radio service.
It is uncommon to have blatant strident justification of capitalism. That would never do. It would reveal immediately the real character of domination of Australia by multinationals, their partners and Australian monopoly capitalists and a coercive state apparatus to Protect it all. What occurs is a far more subtle, insidious, all-embracing indoctrination from the cradle to the grave. This is an indoctrination that aims to achieve and maintain acceptance of the whole system. This occurs in such a way that it is difficult for people to see the reality behind it and to break from it. It is all part of the means of maintaining and perpetuating capitalism in Australia.
The ideology of the dominant class, of the owners, is put forward as the ideology of Australia.
Every kind of thinking is stamped with the brand of a social class. The class in control of ownership of means of production in Australia and the coercive state apparatus imposes its thinking in many different ways, crude and subtle, open and insidious. It passes off this thinking as Australian public opinion. In speaking of religion (one of the weapons of the owners) Lenin rather sharply put it: “All oppressing classes need two social functions to safeguard their rule: the function of the hangman and the function of the priest. The hangman is required to quell the protests and the indignation of the oppressed; the priest is required to paint for them the prospects of mitigation of their sufferings and sacrifices (this is particularly easy to do without giving any guarantee that these prospects will be ’achieved’), while preserving class rule, and thereby to reconcile them to class rule, wean them from revolutionary action, undermine their revolutionary spirit and destroy their revolutionary determination.” It is not without passing interest that in Australia a great effort is being made to unite the organised churches.
Fundamentally this is because the rule of the priest today is very difficult; so critical are the times that he is very important.
Religion is merely one of the whole galaxy of weapons used to create and console public opinion.
As with religion so with other forms of disseminating ideas in Australia. The word “reform” is heard more and more – “reform” of the press, “reform” of education, “reform” of the police. “Reform” never alters the fundamentals. All this testifies to the crisis of rule of the owning class and its coercive state apparatus. “Reform” is just a manoeuvre to deceive people that these fundamentals can be altered. Reality is that their real nature will never change. But despite all that is done to cover reality up, it pushes forward and exposes itself. The whole system accords with Marx’s profound analysis made in the Preface to his “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” where he wrote: “In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society – the real foundation on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations within which they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations the distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic – in short ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.”