Friday, 18 March 2011

Further thoughts on the balance of power

The concepts need further definition, Economic and Consciousness particularly.

Economic power is the capacity of a social actor to provide the goods it requires. At it’s most basic, capitalism relies on the economic weakness of the non-capitalists; the bulk of the population can only get the goods they need through wage labour. This is the basic principle behind the offensive strategy of the lock-out (on the part of the capitalists) and the union strike fund. If one’s opponent is starving, then it is easy to dictate to them the terms by which they can get food.

Other goods are also crucial, of course. The Spanish situation indicated that economic power is the cornerstone of all other power. With the gold reserves of the Madrid bank, the Spanish revolutionaries could have purchased arms rather than relying on the USSR, which had a hostile agenda.

But economic power is not simply money, it is the capacity to supply oneself with necessary goods. If a revolution was successful in one state, but did not spread, it would need to protect itself from imperialist counter-revolution, i.e., it would need to arm itself. But if this hypothetical country does not have the productive capacity to produce arms, it must buy them, which means it relies on the willingness of corporations to sell and of other nations to allow their corporations to sell. So this is obviously a major vulnerability.

In a less dramatic example, any mass movement in contemporary Western society would have the priority of developing its political and moral power. It would need, respectively, the capacity to make its own decisions, to act as a unified body and it would need moral power, it would only be effective if its individual members saw themselves as part of it, united by the movement. Political power requires a political infrastructure; meeting halls, communications, etc. Moral power has similar requirements; media, social gatherings and so on. All of these rely on real goods and services. A labour movement would need to acquire these both through purchasing power and voluntary labour. Either way, this is economic power, it is the capacity of the movement to provide for itself the goods and services it needs to survive and develop.

Moral power is similarly crucial and similarly underlies the other types of power. We can think about moral power as legitimacy and support. The moral power of a movement is its capacity to call on the support of its members. If people see unions as alien they are unlikely to do the needed; attend meetings, respect picket-lines, protect demonstrations from attack.

So what we see is that each type of power connects to others. We should use this analysis not only for the power blocs that we support, but also those we oppose. That way we can develop strategies for furthering the power of popular movements and disrupting and reducing the power of reactionary forces.

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