Notes on the Bureaucratic Bourgeoisie




by Jan Makandal

Mao mentioned the concept of bureaucracy in capitalism in many instances, but he never really gave it a definition; making Mao’s observation correct but still limited to an empirical level. He did his part, with all his limitations (including opportunism and populism). It should be a task of all revolutionary militants to deepen Mao’s contributions, while at the same time continue in the struggle against populism and opportunism.

Our political current participated in the process of deepening that concept of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, and transitioning it from an empirical concept to a rational one. We also participated in the struggle against the opportunist left over that concept, and especially against the opportunist line that was derived from the non-appropriation of that historical concept.

We have found two main trends of opportunist lines (and considerably reactionary lines) that resulted from that non-appropriation.

One is to label a tendency of a degenerated capitalism at the imperialist stage as fascism, and to assign it to the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, thereby advocating an anti-fascist political line. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie does have some pronounced fascist tendencies, but it is not fascist. Many of the social formations in which a bureaucratic bourgeoisie has been constituted are not imperialist.

It is very dangerous politically to conflate a tendency engendered from the internal contradiction of a phenomenon with the phenomenon as a whole.

For example, racism is an inherent tendency of a class-divided society, and since we live in capitalist dominated social formations, racism will manifest itself. It becomes a tendency inside the phenomenon of capitalism, as it existed in feudalism, in slavery, and certainly in any other form of class-divided society. But it is not the phenomenon. Any political line that assigns the anti-racist struggle as the main focus of our “what is to be done” will inevitably lead to reformism.

I will surprise some of our anti-racists: racism will not mechanically disappear under socialism as long as class divisions persist during a socialist transition. The objective conditions will be more favorable for destroying racism, but as an ideological element, it will still have a tendency to reproduce itself, even if in a much abated and diminishing fashion.

Identifying the bureaucratic bourgeoisie as fascist (in the dogmatic tradition of opportunism and revisionism), makes the anti-fascist front a necessity. The Sandinista front, the anti-Duvalier front, and others… all originated from that confusion. The left ended up making the fatal error of uniting with other fractions of the capitalist class, which were also the fundamental enemy of the popular masses.

The other tendency is actually what we are witnessing now: a lack of understanding by the popular classes of the presence of that fraction inside the fundamental enemy’s power bloc. The result of this error is that the left is driven to support the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, and even sends people to defend them against imperialist aggression. This is an application of the revisionist line: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But to support Saddam Hussein is like spitting on the graves of all the communist combatants he killed.

We ourselves identified it as a bureaucratic bourgeoisie to avoid any confusion between state capitalism (a concentrated form of accumulation inside the state), and a fraction of the capitalist class that has reached a level of maturation. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie is inside the state apparatus, while the nation-state can be either dominated by state capitalism or not.

Without presently elaborating the concept further, I will simply indicate very panoramically and very concisely some indicators of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie:

  • The bureaucratic bourgeoisie is historically constituted inside the state apparatus. The state apparatus and state-owned enterprises become a principal source of capital accumulation. The principal form of that accumulation is corruption.
  • The bureaucratic bourgeoisie [BB] has a tendency to control political power; since the government is the center pole of the state apparatus, it has a tendency to be hegemonic in order to control the government and the whole state apparatus. The BB is usually very reluctant to concede control of the government. Elections are not in their agenda and fake elections are their game. In Haiti, if you wanted to vote “No” against Duvalier, you would have to go get a red voting card from a heavily armed military, while “Yes” green cards were in abundance all over. Red, mind you, signified communism, which was grounds for a legal death sentence provided by the Haitian constitution at the time.
  • The army usually functions as their political organization, like the red guards in Iran, North Korea, and Egypt… Morsi learned that the hard way when he attempted to strip the Generals [the BB] of all political power. In Haiti, the VSN and the “Macoutes” were the private political army of Duvalier that later fused with the regular army.
  • Because the state apparatus is the BB’s main form of capital accumulation, it is very resistant to neo-liberalism. They are against privatization, which the left identifies as progressive but is really a totally ultra-reactionary political position. Their stand against privatization only benefits the BBs and their allies.
  • The main allies of the BB is feudalism and another fraction of the bourgeoisie—a bourgeoisie with a very high monopolistic tendency. Competition, a natural expression of capitalism, is not their game. This characteristic makes them a favorite of the BB (particularly at the level of the superstructure), because a certain level of political power is needed for control of the market.
  • The BB will favor nationalization. The objectivists of the left, based on their evolutionary economic approach of purely looking at capitalism as an economic system, will support this, and even identify the whole society as socialist, such as the case of Venezuela.
  • In most cases, the BB, in order to maintain power, will construct a political base among the unemployed, the lumpen and potential lumpen, and sectors of the peasantry very close to the feudal landowners.
  • BBs tend to be very autocratic, which is a fascistic characteristic. The political power is concentrated in the hands of individuals, BBs depend on autocratic rule.
  • Objectively, there exist contradictions between BBs and imperialism while at the same time imperialism depends on the BBs to organize and maintain repression. They have a proven record in that field.
  • There exist contradictions among the dominant classes within the power bloc, but they also rely on the repressive capacity of the BB.
  • The nationalism of the BB is reactionary. There is nothing progressive about it. Their nationalism is determined by their need to protect their reproduction inside the state apparatus.

These are some simple points to indicate this fraction, and the struggle of this fraction for reproduction.