The Bureaucratic Bourgeoisie: An Overview


By Proletarian Alternative

(July 15, 2014)

Schematically, we can say the bureaucratic bourgeoisie (BB) are bourgeois like any other member of the bourgeoisie. They are also part of the larger power bloc, an alliance of all the classes and fractions of classes that hold political power, which ensures their capacity to dominate other classes politically on a daily basis. The power bloc uses its apparatuses (social structures and mechanisms) to dominate other classes. It is itself politically organized, while it works assiduously to disorganize the masses in all the classes it dominates.

One of the apparatuses the power bloc uses is the state apparatus—comprised of the police, military and other armed forces, plus the government (all branches) at all levels (federal, state, local) and the judicial system—to organize repression, to impose bourgeois democratism. In addition, the power bloc uses other apparatuses such as political parties, collaborationist unions, churches, schools, nonprofits, and all forms of media to keep the masses disorganized and under their domination.

When we speak of the power bloc in imperialist social formations (for example the US), we are referring to all forms of concentration of capital. In dominated social formations, we are referring to all forms of concentration of capital plus feudalism.

In any social formation, the power bloc, even with their internal opposing interests, hold political power together and keep the masses under their domination. During the previous century, the bureaucratic bourgeoisie has been historically constituted in many social formations, emerging as a distinct fraction of the bourgeoisie.

The BB is part of the bourgeoisie. What is particular about it is the manner in which it locates and accumulates capital: by utilizing the state apparatus. It uses the state apparatus to develop businesses, or to control state-owned enterprises. It also uses the state apparatus to realize “monopolistic” aspirations over other forms of concentration of capital: industries, agriculture, agribusiness and import-export.

Their initial principal form of accumulation is corruption. They then use that primitive form of accumulation of capital to invest in other spheres of concentrated capital, either on their own or in partnership with other capitalists (mainly those with monopolistic tendencies).

The historical constitution of the BB is also distinguished from the other fractions of that class by the form in which their political power is realized. In contrast to the power bloc in most social formation, which relies on the petit bourgeoisie as their political representatives in the state apparatus, the BB tends is to control political power itself, directly, with no intermediary. It has a tendency to hold hegemonic control of the entire state apparatus, especially its center pole: the government. The BB is usually very reluctant to concede control of the government. For example, Somoza, Duvalier, the Shah, Khadafy, Kim in North Korea and many other heads of state have been installed for life, either by fake elections or by hegemonic and autocratic control of the state apparatus.

The BB distinguishes itself from other classes of the power bloc also by controlling all the repressive apparatuses of the state apparatus. The army usually becomes and functions as their political organization, as they have in Iran (Revolutionary Guards), North Korea, and Egypt. In Iraq during the war, US imperialists, with all their so-called anti-Iran propaganda, were doing business with the Revolutionary Guards for reconstruction projects, still collaborating with them with each new and ongoing conflict.

Another distinct characteristic of the BB is that it is very autocratic. Political power is concentrated in the hands of individuals who are charismatic enough to unify the BB, and all other classes in the power bloc under the leadership of the BB. Constant ongoing struggle occurs within the power bloc to limit the hegemonic power of the BB, or to strip it of power. In many instances (such as in Haiti), the BB will lose their hegemonic power, but is in constant struggle to regain it (such as in Romania and Poland). In Russia they did regain it, headed by Putin, a member of the KGB.

An additional characteristic that distinguishes the BB from other fractions of the power bloc is their relation with imperialism, which is based on relative autonomy. They have direct political relations with imperialism, with no intermediary. In that relative autonomy, and depending on the international contradiction, the BB is on the one hand a dependent, subservient sycophant of imperialism, and on the other hand, independent from it. The BB is very much in need of all types of foreign assistance (another source of its accumulation), while being at the same time very restraint to privatization (which is usually imposed as a condition of assistance). Also, imperialism depends on the BB for its capacity to organize repression. Significantly, in the past few decades, the BB has shown its capacity to organize anti-communist repression in many social formations.

Though an alliance exists between the BB fraction and the other classes of the power bloc, as in any class alliance there is always both unity and struggle. Their struggle is based on opposing interests, which are totally secondary in relation to their unity as a bloc. However, this struggle will define the application (or not) of bourgeois democratic rights.

In any power bloc, the classes are never equal. One or another class or class fraction, in that ongoing unity and struggle, will always be dominant and hegemonic over the whole bloc. Hegemony is a relation between those classes in the power bloc. In this moment, the BB is the hegemonic class in many social formations.

The hegemonic class will always realize its own political interests first. It will also realize the political interests of other classes in the power bloc, but its own interests will be realized to the maximum, before all others. However, depending on the relation of power in the power bloc, the ultimate interests of the BB are sometimes not fully realized (as with Aristide in Haiti).

In every social formation there is always struggle within the power bloc for hegemony of a class or fraction of a class. Fractions of classes struggle to emerge and cohere. Inside the US imperialist social formation, this struggle is ongoing. Though the US bourgeoisie has taken stern measures to bloc (or at least limit) the historical capacity for their BB to be historically constituted, the specter of it hovers.

In order to understand this point, we must differentiate and distinguish the BB from the government. Objectivist logic may lead to the deduction that since many bourgeois bureaucrats are members of the government, then the government and the BB are identical. But while the BB does use the government as a source of capital, many government and state employees are not bourgeois bureaucrats. They are merely functionaries.

Historically, the constitution of the BB is realized in the state apparatus, mainly through control of the government. In the US, because of safeguards put in place to hinder the historical constitution of a BB, a tendency exists for that to occur outside of the state apparatus instead. Because the BB needs the government for its historical realization, though, it is compelled to develop particular relations with the state apparatus, in this case through “non-governmental” institutions such as organized labor and NGOs. It is important now to consider and examine the leadership and social practices of these structures.

Correspondent to the low level of struggle of workers in the US, working class organizations are becoming non-existent. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie has taken to using the petit bourgeoisie as a crutch, both to realize its political objectives and as a social base to realize its historical constitution as a class. For a particular example, in Florida many NGOs such as the Dream Defenders, One Florida, Florida Majority, and many other organizations are all funded by various organized labor institutions, serve under their political leadership, and exist solely to achieve their political objectives.

The social practices engaged in by organized labor to realize their objectives are also met with safeguards laid out by the acting power bloc of the US social formation.

The practices of organized labor to achieve their objectives are not new. This is not an innovation. In their process of historical constitution, the potential BB has attempted to realize unity with organized crime, another potential component of the BB. Organized crime was a higher stage of historical constitution of the BB. Imperialists used them to organize repression, and pre-emptive repressive measures. They attempted to influence politics at the level of the superstructure, and when alienated, even sometimes functioned as a parallel government, headed by an autocrat.

The BB is relentless in its aim to be historically constituted. At the same time, the other fractions of the bourgeoisie are determined not to let it happen. This is why many from the potential BB, either from organized crime or organized labor, are now rotting in jails, punished for their practices of primitive accumulation.

In the US social formation, there is both struggle and unity in the power bloc around the historical constitution of the BB. But a very important distinction exists in this case. The potential BB in the US currently has no political control. They are now external to the power bloc, and can only exert influence from outside, by attempting to realize a better balance of power in its favor.

They do this by interfering in elections, leaning on the petit bourgeoisie. They demonstrate to the bourgeoisie (especially industrial capital) that they have the capacity to be a non-repressive, pre-emptive force against working class struggle, as well as their capacity to repress it when necessary. For example, during the past 40 years they not led a struggle to even adjust the minimum wage to the rising cost of living. It is only now, when their membership is dwindling (along with membership dues, along with their political power base), that they finally realize they have to.

There is only one force that can thwart the power bloc, including the bureaucratic bourgeoisie in any social formation, as well as the practices of any potential BB: an autonomous proletarian force at the head of a popular democratic and revolutionary struggle. The defeat of any capitalist bloc in any social formation is possible only by organizing the people’s power bloc, under the hegemony of the working class.