Modern capitalism

Issue: 162

Michael Kidron

Introduction, by Alex Callinicos

This is the transcript of a talk given by Michael Kidron and of the discussion that followed on Tuesday 5 July 1977, the first of two sessions (the second was called “The Crisis”) that he gave in the “Capitalism and Crisis” course at Marxism 1977. Both sessions were taped by Colin Barker, and have now been transcribed and edited by John Rudge. We are grateful to John for all his work, and for offering the results for publication in International Socialism (the entire transcript, with John’s introduction, can be found at

The meeting took place in a very different historical moment from our own. Labour took office in March 1974 after an unprecedented wave of workers’ militancy had forced the Tory government of Ted Heath out of office. Prime ministers Harold Wilson and (from March 1976) Jim Callaghan were under pressure to deliver substantial reforms. From within the cabinet Tony Benn pressed for the impromptu government rescues of sections of British capital to be transformed into a systematic strategy for achieving a state-directed economy that represented, in the words of Labour’s 1974 manifesto, “a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families”.

But from British and international capital there came increasingly strident demands, against the background of the first major world recession since the Second World War, for the government to clamp down on workers’ demands. This led to the imposition of pay controls in the summer of 1975. Thanks to the support of the trade union bureaucracy, sanctified by a “Social Contract” between the government and the unions, real wages fell sharply in 1975-7. Rising unemployment and falling living standards provided the background against which racist ideas spread, and the Nazi National Front took to the streets.

In 1977 different groups of workers revolted against pay restraint. The year was also marked by the Grunwick strike, a prolonged struggle between mainly Asian workers and a proto-Thatcherite boss that foreshadowed the much more systematic attacks on organised labour that would come after the Tories returned to office in 1979. Marxism ’77—the first in the series that continue to be organised to the present day—took place in a heady atmosphere, following mass pickets by dockers and miners in solidarity with the Grunwick strikers, and with the great anti-Nazi demonstration at Lewisham only a few weeks away. Expectations were high in the Socialist Workers Party, whose student section organised the event, that an even bigger wave of struggles than those of the early 1970s would soon allow the SWP (as the International Socialists had recently renamed themselves) to break into the main political arena.

Kidron was one of IS’s main theorists. He edited this journal during its early years in the 1960s, publishing a series of brilliant articles that sought to give an up-to-date Marxist analysis of contemporary capitalism. He was best known for his contribution to the theory of the Permanent Arms Economy, according to which post-war capitalism had stabilised itself thanks to the high level of arms expenditure prevailing during the Cold War, but he also offered a dazzling critique, less of the classical Marxist theory of imperialism than of attempts to assert that it still held true despite all the changes that had happened since Lenin’s and Rosa Luxemburg’s day.1

Kidron was also a leading activist in the IS and their predecessor, the Socialist Review group.2 But he became increasingly distant from the direction IS was taking, particular after its adoption of democratic centralism in 1968. He remained, however, the group’s main intellectual reference point on Marxist political economy. As a new editor of International Socialism, I invited Mike to contribute to the 100th issue of the original series of the journal, which appeared in July 1977. In the introductory editorial I pointed out what our theory had neglected, “above all…the massive reality of the oppression of women”, and that our theory had been most successful as an explanation of the post-war boom, now well and truly over: “the world of the late 1970s presents new problems. Faced with them our theory is a bit like an old snapshot, yellowing and curling at the edges. It needs updating”.3

Kidron certainly sought to meet this challenge. In “Two Insights Don’t Make a Theory”, he argued that, of the two main intellectual components of the IS tradition, the Permanent Arms Economy didn’t, after all, explain the post-war boom, and the theory of state capitalism “was never a general theory”, and indeed tended to treat the Stalinist societies in isolation from the rest of the world. In their place, Mike offered a portrait of state capitalism as a “world system”, increasingly dominating the West as much as the East, and argued that Marxist economic theory had systematically to be rethought to take this reality into account.4

His article was published alongside a robust reply by Chris Harman that stated this fundamental objection: “The trend is towards state capitalism, towards the complete merger of individual capitals in each country with the national state. But the trend is also to the internationalisation of production: the most modern techniques are developed on an international scale.” Chris went on to argue that these two tendencies were “both complementary and contradictory”. As a result: “Even the biggest capitalisms are not self-contained entities, only relating to each other externally. They are not monads without windows. They are more like sieves—and the more the national state plugs up one hole, the more other holes appear”.5

Kidron’s meetings at Marxism ’77 took place against the background of this exchange. Both talks contain a great deal more than the focus of the debate—the emergence of a “state capitalist world system”, and, like his article, include much that is of continuing interest—for example, his argument that an increasing proportion of the working class is now employed to help in the reproduction of labour power. But the first meeting was where the fireworks took place. Infuriatingly, the tape breaks off before Mike replied to his critics. He never did in print, but the debate (along with arguments among German and British Marxists over how to “derive” the state from the capital-relation) helped to stimulate Colin Barker’s magisterial “The State as Capital”, which dominated the first issue of this journal in its present form.6 Chris Harman went on in Explaining the Crisis (1984) and Zombie Capitalism (2009) to develop the SWP’s ­understanding of the contemporary period of crises without abandoning either of the two insights.7 He also put forward his own very powerful theorisation of the state and capital in “The State and Capitalism Today” (1991), which returned to the 1977 debate from a much broader analytical and historical perspective.8

There is little doubt that Mike was fundamentally wrong in predicting a world of fully realised state capitals. He was extrapolating from the experience of the early and mid-20th centuries, and from the statist measures taken by both Tories and Labour to rescue bankrupt firms in the early and mid-1970s. The dominant trend proved to be in the opposite direction, as the neoliberal offensive led by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan removed many restrictions on the global operation of capital and weakened workers’ organisations. The generalisation of neoliberalism during the 1980s involved precisely the global imposition of financial discipline that Mike argued had become a thing of the past. This followed the so-called Volcker Shock of October 1979, when the US Federal Reserve Board pushed up interest rates and imposed controls on the monetary base, measures which, contrary to Mike’s predictions, initiated a prolonged downward trend in the rate of inflation. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system in August 1971, when Richard Nixon broke the link between the dollar and gold, actually increased the power of US imperialism to manage the international financial system and thereby to shape the global economy: states do matter, but so too do the differences in their capabilities.

Mike would himself change his mind. In the manuscript he left on his death in 2003, there is a chapter that offers some brilliant thoughts about the contemporary “fractal state”, struggling to manage global capital.9 We hope to publish an edited version of this chapter in future. But even when wrong, Mike had important insights to offer—for example, of how difficult the interweaving of the state and big capital makes the elimination of uncompetitive firms, something that remains of fundamental importance in the post-crash world of quantitative easing and zombie firms. So here is the fertile mind of Michael Kidron at work, confronting his critics at an important moment in the history of the British left.


Comrades. I do not know how many of you have been on the Grunwick’s picket line. You might have noticed, or rather, some people might have noticed, that it is not a normal sort of strike in the sense that there is a body of workers who are confronting an employer and they are slugging it out between them, with only a distant interest on the part of other workers and on the part of the employer’s supporters. There is much more involved. There is something happening in the street. And there is also something happening in the corridors of power.

Those that are on the picket line will obviously find as an interesting thing what is happening and the tactics that are adopted there; but as interesting at least, is why it is that it became a strike of significance to a large body of workers, and of sufficient significance to have turned into a political football.

There is no need to go into the details. What can be said fairly simply, is that the strike relates to government labour policy. It relates to the relationship between the state and the trade unions. It is a test of whether the trade union bureaucrats are getting some sort of payoff for their support of the Social Contract and Labour government economic policy generally. It is therefore seen also as a test for a vast body of workers, a test of their influence over the course of events. It is, therefore, quite an important strike, and it raises a number of questions that I feel we have not looked at sufficiently closely in the recent past.

Questions like, how integrated the trade union machine is in the state? How different or similar is the capitalism we live in now to the capitalism of, say, 40 or 50 years ago? Has there been a significant qualitative change in the political environment in which we live? And, I will try to show that there has been a significant political change, and I hope to do it very simply. I will go from one sector of our activity to another, and one sector of our enemy’s activity to another, and try to compare them with the image that we have of those sectors, and the image we have had for a long time. I want to see whether the reality, or, as I see the reality, is similar to that image, or is it slightly different?

The working class and the reproduction of labour power

One starts off with the workers—and there is one thing that we can say that no-one is going to disagree with. That the workers are the dispossessed, they are members of the working class insofar as they work for capital, producing a surplus for capital. No-one is going to argue about that. We might, however, start arguing about who are members of the working class.

Up until recently, there might have been a reason to differentiate between two sorts of workers; those who were members of the working class, creating a surplus for the capitalists and those who were members of the workforce who did not necessarily directly or indirectly create a surplus for the capitalist.

In previous periods, it is very difficult to say when the transition came because the transition has been a very gradual thing, you could say that the reproduction of the workforce or the reproduction of the working class was something that capitalism enjoyed. But it was something that capital itself did not engage in. It happened out there. In recent capitalist countries it was fairly simple. It happened in the peasant sector—workers were created, they were shunted into the town. I am exaggerating—obviously—after the first generation of workers, there was also a creation, a reproduction of labour power in the towns. But there was always a very large stream of workers coming in from the countryside into the towns. People who were not workers in their origins, people who were sustained initially in their early growth and socialisation period by the peasant sector. Forget about the definition of the peasant sector—the key thing about it is that capital itself did not invest. It was not required to create the workers that emanated from the peasant sector. That still goes on to a certain degree, but much more of the labour force is now a settled labour force worldwide.

The working class, those people that directly or indirectly create surplus for capital, those workers are a fixed population, and a very small proportion of them are coming in from outside the system. So what has happened is, to put it very crudely, and it is something that obviously needs a lot of discussion to refine, that capital itself has found it necessary to create the working class, to renew the working class and especially to renew a working class that is of the technical level that is required for capitalist production today.

I do not want to enter into arguments about the degradation of labour in modern capitalism.10 There is a lot of degradation that goes on in the sense that skills are being lost, but there are a lot of other skills—social skills, skills that you do not actually associate with any particular job—that are necessary for modern capitalism. A British worker that cannot read is somebody that cannot actually work, cannot produce the surplus that capital requires. An American worker that cannot drive is somebody that capital can hardly use.

So not only is there a demographic aspect to this, there is also the “what is exploitable material” from the capitalist point of view. And so capitalism—or rather, capitals—has found it more and more necessary to involve itself in this reproduction of an exploitable labour force.

It started well back in the last century with the early Education Acts of the 1860s, 1870s—I do not remember exactly when. It has been increasing decade by decade in the spread of welfarism—but since the war it has really taken off. Since the war with a commitment that we might think is a purely ideological commitment, but actually it is a real commitment on their part to a welfare state that signifies their involvement or the necessity that they have to be involved, in the reproduction of labour.

What that means is that now there is a vast body of workers who are engaged as workers relating to capital, because it is in capital’s interest that they relate to capital. A vast body of workers who are reproducing labour power, reproducing the working class.

I do not know how many they are. Using the very crude statistics from the breakdown of the labour force you find that, in the category called “Community, Welfare and Personal Services”, there are something like six and a bit million people on the payroll. A few generations back they numbered very few. A few generations before that, and there are not that many generations in the history of capitalism, they would not be considered members of the working class.

What I am saying is that given the decline of labour as a free supply from outside the capitalist system, given the necessity for capital to invest in the creation of an exploitable labour force, in the creation of the working class, given that situation, capital has found it necessary to employ, to bring into the working class, a huge number of people. Millions in Britain, millions elsewhere in the centres of the capitalist system.

The process I am sure will go on. There are still large numbers of people, perhaps six or seven million in this country, who are doing the same job, but are not considered members of the working class, except through marriage.

I have no doubt—well let me say that I do have doubt, but it is possible—that wages will be paid for housework at one point or another. It is in the logic of the extension of capital to the investment in labour power. As soon as housewives or mothers are paid wages for housework, once again we have a vast formal extension of the working class.

At the moment I would include them as active members of the working class relating to capital that needs their services, even though capital is, as yet, not paying for it. So what has happened is that the working class has increased in size. Equally important, the working class has increased its size as a proportion of the workforce, which is always the vast majority of humanity.

And one other thing has happened which is important. It is that the new workers, and really I should expect that they constitute more than half of the working class, are engaged in a job, which is qualitatively different from the job that the working class has traditionally been engaged in. That is they are creating, dealing with, inculcating a view, socialising, restraining, structuring, God knows what, they are doing things to people, to other members of the working class—and this, of course, leads to a fairly different approach to work.

It is all very well in the traditional manual trades to say, if you can get away with it, just splash some paint over the crack and see whether it can get through the inspection. Who the hell cares about the product of your labour, or about the purpose of your labour, or who anyway is responsible to the activity that goes on in the name of production? Now, it is very difficult to come up to an old woman who has broken her hip and is sitting in a hospital and for one nurse to say to the other, “just do a paint job on her, forget about the hip”. Something changes when the object of your labour is your class, when, even if it is not your class, it just happens to be a human being. Something changes in your attitude to the work.

The traditional attitude which we have always upheld, of aggressive ­irresponsibility, of alienation upheld as something to be desired towards the forms of work, how you go about it, about the product of work, that is extremely difficult to pursue in that vast sector which covers the renewal of labour power.

So one of the accompaniments of the extension of the working class has also been a fuzziness in the traditional view of work that workers have upheld. I am saying here that it is difficult to avoid taking issue with the aims and the content of the work that we do.

A subaltern trade union bureaucracy

Now, obviously, if the working class has changed in its size, its composition and its attitudes, then the next thing to look at is the trade union movement. Here there are lots of things that have happened, certainly since the war. We know that the trade unions have increased their size and coverage incredibly since the war. We know that they are still expanding fairly fast and expanding in the white collar sectors of workers. White collar sectors are particularly the ones that I have singled out as sectors that are new or that are most representative of the tendency in this new stage of capitalism.

Even in a period of mounting unemployment, the number of members of the trade union movement is growing and that is a considerable achievement in terms of the coverage of workers. But the actual coverage by the trade unions of the working class is less than it was before, because the working class itself has grown so rapidly since the war. So although it seems that the trade unions have grown, they have become weaker than they were 40 years ago, at least numerically.

There is another thing that has happened that seems very significant. We have always said that the trade union bureaucracy, as individuals, use their position in society as the straddlers between two contending classes to force their way into the ruling class. Force their way either as members, in other words, to be incorporated into the bourgeoisie in one way or another, or certainly force their way in psychologically—they actually belong, they feel that it is right that capitalism go on. They feel that their job is to temper the aspirations and the violence of their members and it has always been true. Nothing has changed in their approach, either to workers or to capital. They have always used workers to feather their own nests. They have always served capital as a restrainer of the workers.

However, something different has been happening since the war. Before then it was only on the rarest of occasions, in times of crisis, that the trade union bureaucracy had been called in as part of the policy-making mechanisms of capitalism. It is only since the war that it has become normal for them to act as part of the policy-making mechanisms of capital.

Now, whether you see it in the association of the Jack Joneses and so on, with the various forms of wage control, whether it is called Social Contract or whatever—or whether you see it in this slow-moving towards some sort of trade union participation in the running of industry.11 Whether it is through some sort of emasculated version of the Bullock proposals—or whether it is through some other mechanism which is bound to be suggested as a compromise solution to the contending interests in Bullock.12 However you see it, there is a very marked shift towards the integration of the trade union bureaucracy. I am not talking about integration of the trade unionists. Their relationship to the trade union bureaucracy is what it always has been, or possibly it is more distrustful now than it has been in the past. There has always been a sort of ambivalent relationship—that we need the structure of organisation in order to confront capital—but at the same time we distrust the people who keep that structure going.

The workers’ attitude to the trade unions has not changed. The position of the trade union bureaucrats within the larger society has. I think it has changed qualitatively since the war. It is now expected, it is part of the normal running of the system, that the trade union leadership be in constant communion and almost constant communication with the people who run government, and through them the people who run business as a whole.

So a) the trade unions are weaker in terms of coverage, although formally they seem to be growing and getting stronger in terms of coverage and b) they are stronger, or rather the bureaucrats are stronger, in terms of their being part and parcel of the governing or, as Harold Wilson would put it, the governance of the country. There is also a third thing that has changed in the nature of trade unionism since the war. That is their increasingly narrow relationship to capital.

In the grand old days of independent trade unionism, although there were very many trade unions that were plant-wide or company-wide, there were also very many trade unions that were larger than company-wide that confronted competing bosses with one trade union will or with one organisation of workers. They did not do it very well. But, at least in principle, that was the strength of the trade unions, that the solidarity of their members stretched beyond the actual capital that they were employed by. They covered more than one capital. Now, the tendency is for the trade unions to become national organisations, but for capital to become international, or rather for capitalism to be international.

Even, as you are going to hear me say later, countries are becoming single capitals. I am also going to say that the internationalisation of capital is not as pronounced as it might be thought to be if one looks at the multinational corporation and so on.

In spite of the seeming internationalisation of capital, what has tended to happen is that the trade unions have organised more and more on the basis of the national sphere of operation, not on the basis of international action. Now, there are international actions. I do not want to deny that there is a sense in which some trade unions are moving along the funnels provided by the multinational corporation, which we will come to later.

There is a sense in which nationally there is competition between trade unions, but the broad direction has been for the trade unions to become larger and larger and more and more organised to confront national capital in single confrontations, whether they are national bargaining units, whether they are strikes that have a national amplitude. Whatever it is, it is within the country that the trade unions confront capital. And if, as I shall be saying later, capital itself has become nationalised in the sense that we are talking about a world of state capitals. What really has happened is that the spread of the trade unions between capitals, the confrontation between a single trade union and many competing capitals has changed. That the single capital confronts the single trade union. At the best of times the single capital confronts more than one trade union, at the worst of times the advantage that trade unions had before of having a wider organisation, a more centralised organisation than the bosses—that advantage has also gone since the war, or is on the way to disappearing.

I think the new period that I am talking about is weakening the trade union structure and weakening the effect of activity within that trade union structure. I am not saying that we should not be active in the trade union structure, obviously not. It is just that the relation of forces has changed. The trade unions cover less of the working class. The trade union leadership is more integrated into the control of the country, integrated with capital. The trade unions themselves, because they operate on a national scale and capital now operates on a national scale, have lost a measure of their bargaining power as against individual capitals—because they only relate to an individual capital.

A world of state capitals

Who have they lost the power to? It is not as if business, seen as private firms, has gained tremendously from the loss of trade union power. I suppose that we might say, much as we say it of trade unions, that there has been an integration between business and the state, as pronounced as the integration between the trade union bureaucracy and the state.

Now, I do not think I really need to speak about that at length. We know that there is explicit planning and implicit planning. We know that it is impossible for a large firm to set up any sort of operation without getting a multitude of government permissions and so on. We know that the state is increasing its activity as a producer. We know that it increases its activities as a producer not only by taking over lame ducks, but also by investing in new industries. Whether they are the plutonium monsters of the power stations or whether it is in some other area—whatever it is, there is a growing integration between the state and private industry. It also does not mean that there is not a great deal of conflict, and really heated conflict, between different sections of the private capitalist class.

Obviously those that can measure up to international competition feel the necessity of support by the state to be less crucial than those that cannot do so. Take a company like ICI. It has people sitting on more than 200 government committees on a permanent basis. It never makes a move without having some sort of backing from the state. At the same time ICI, in general terms, objects and propagandises against the increasing role of the state, against the increasing control exercised by the state over its operations—because ICI feels that it can confront the German chemical plants in Europe and the American chemical plants in the States. It is a world company that uses its base in Britain, but actually it does not require to be guarded at every point in its empire by Britain.

But take another company like Leyland. If the British state did not exist, Leyland would not at the moment exist. Over here you have the entire spectrum of the private sector. Obviously, Leyland and ICI will have different policies. Different policies about tariffs, they will have different policies about taxation, different policies about Europe, they will have different policies about almost everything. The key thing is that, in general, throughout this post-war period, the integration with the state for the whole lot of them, even those that find it awkward, find it to a certain extent distasteful, even those have become more and more integrated with government than was normal before the war.

Let us move on to the state. I do not need to say that it has not changed its basic function of suppressing the workers, oppressing the peasants, where the peasants still exist, of being a tool of the ruling class. However, it certainly has become more than that. One of the key functions that it has lost, certainly since the war, and it was in the process of losing before then, was the function of knocking the capitalist’s heads together. The function of adjudicating between individual capitals. Now it lays down the law. Now it sets the terms of operation of the various parts of the national capital. But if what I have been saying is true, that the private business has become increasingly a branch of a single state capital, the state which represents that state capital has only one capital to deal with.

Of course, that capital has conflicts, in every organisation there are conflicts between different departments. In even minute organisations with half a dozen people working, there are conflicts between different interest groups. But they do not amount to the competition, the normal relationship between independent, autonomous and yet interdependent capitals. That has moved away from the national arena. Now, of course, there are foreign capitals that operate in the national arena. There are national capitals, parts of national capital, that operate abroad. But one of the distinguishing features of the state, the state that used to be called the liberal state, the feature which was to act as an objective judge between the claims of the different capitals that were operating within the national terrain—that feature is much less than it was and, in principle, does not exist in the new situation.

What that means is that there has been a fairly important change in the relations of the individual with what we used to call civil rights and the state. Civil rights, the rights of the individual in the bourgeois state, grew up in the era of competition between capitals. If no capital actually was king in one area, if they contended for the market in the national state and, if these contenders were equal in the eyes of the law, and equal in the eyes of the state, there was a certain amount of room for individual rights and liberties to grow. And behind those individual rights and liberties, there was also room for the growth of trade union rights and trade union liberties. Now, if it is true that capital is coalescing into single state capitals, and I am not only talking about Britain, I am talking about it worldwide, it is also true that the liberal virtues of bourgeois capitalism, of private capitalism, are losing their material base. And not only are the liberal virtues losing their material base but also the basis for trade union rights is being undermined as well.

So the state is changing its nature, and, in fact, we are reaching a period of the organisation of capitalism which is much more a pure capitalism than it has ever been before. There is no body, no institution, larger than the individual capital. If the individual capital now is more or less a state capital, that capital has now captured the state. There is no overarching state that can make decisions as between the different capitals worldwide. In other words, there is no monopoly of the armed power outside of the capital itself. There is no control over some fundamental mechanisms like the financial mechanism, outside of the capital itself. Capital has become so big, has become so incorporated, has so absorbed into itself not only the state, but also the monopoly of armed force of the state and the monetary mechanisms that the state used to preside over.

So we have changed. We have moved from the state that was slightly distant from capital, to a state that is part of capital. We have also lost many of the functions of the state. The functions that related to the area of competition between capitals. And capital, of course, has also changed. It is now forced to undertake many activities that it did not undertake before. I have mentioned the most important, the reproduction of labour power. It is forced also to take over the production of waste, which it did not have to do in the past, because it could always expel the waste producing functions to the non-capitalist, or the imperfectly capitalist parts of the economy.

Capital is now forced to arm itself. Capital is now forced to integrate workers into the system in a way that it did not do before. Things have changed. The capital we are dealing with is a different kind of animal. It is still a surplus producing animal, it is still a competitive animal, it is still a ruthless animal, it is still everything that you can say about it. But it is now much more representative of all the actions within society than it has ever been before. It has become society. Whereas before it was part of a section that you can say, this is the capitalist section, this is the non-capitalist section. And finally, the system itself has changed. Capitalism has changed. There are no outside institutions. There is no outside.

If you look at the world, you see there are strong capitals, weak capitals, accumulating capitals, broken-back capitals, capitals that have a future in the world market and capitals that do not have a future in the world market. You have got every variety of the fauna of capital. The world is now carved up into independent states. Those independent states either represent functioning capitals or they represent capitals that would like to be functioning capitals. There is no outside and no third persons in the system. It is a total system. It is also a dangerous system, because each capital is armed.

But it has problems which are peculiar to it. One of the problems I will be dealing with on Thursday, and that is the problem of annihilating capital. In the old system it was very simple. There was a boom and a slump, and during the slump you got shot of all the inefficient capitals. Thus, during the next boom, there were fewer of them, they were stronger, etc, etc. It was fine. It was a way of cleansing the system, of centralising capital, that did not create too many difficulties.

Now, with every capital armed, with capitals really covering whole states, the problem for the system is a fantastic problem. How the hell to get rid of the unproductive bits? How to get rid of those that cannot make it in the world market? How to centralise capital? It is a big problem and it is a problem that I do not think they are going to solve. But it is a problem of the state capitalist system.

What I am saying is that we are in a new era and we have been in the new era for some time—only we are afraid to recognise these things. It is so much more comfortable to sit with your back towards the engine and let the driver get on with it. To look at the course of history passing and argue about whether that tree is relevant to that landscape, or that building really fits. You can become really very erudite about the Russian Revolution and you actually do not notice that the guy is racing you into a nuclear power station and we are all going to blow up as a result, because that is his business. We are specialists in the past.

Now I am saying that we have not given up the past. The past is still with us. There are still workers and they are exploited and there are still capitalists and they exploit. There is a lot that is recognisable, but there is also quite a lot that is new. Whether what is new is the new size, composition and consciousness of the working class. Whether what is new is the increasing limitations being placed on the trade union movement. Whether what is new is the disappearance of the private sector into a joint state-private sector called a state capital. Whether what is new is the development of a new stage in capitalism called the state capitalist stage. All of those things seem to be new.

But they are not the only things that are new—and that is what needs real discussion, because we have not recognised these new things systematically. Of course, every time we are engaged in some sort of activity we come up against the new feature and, of course, we adapt to the new feature in a very empirical way. Obviously, we recruit white collar workers. Obviously, with the growth of the women’s movement we become conscious of the women as members of the working class. Obviously we react. We are not dumb, we are not insensitive, but we have not actually grasped the new situation theoretically. And because we have not grasped the new situation theoretically, we are also I think, liable to make fairly fundamental mistakes in our political practice.

Questions, contributions, discussions from the audience

Anon: What is the evidence for saying that the state no longer acts as an adjudicator between capitals given the role of, for example, the Monopolies Commission or the Takeover Panel?

MK: In the question asking for evidence for saying that the state has lost its adjudicating functions the example was given of the Monopolies Commission. I will take that example.

There has been a shift in the type of activity and the type of proposal that the Monopolies Commission has been giving, not only in Britain, but also in other countries where similar organisations exist within the branches of government.

Now, whereas those organisations were at one time really active in preventing the growth of monopoly, now you find those organisations taking the national interest into account. In other words, they allow through, not in a very systematic way because they are still tied up with a private enterprise kind of ideology, but increasingly they take the national interest into account in this sense. That they allow through very large mergers. Mergers that destroy competition within the country from other national producers in order to enable the country—British National Capital—to confront foreign producers at home and abroad. In other words, if you really look at that detail, and I realise that the word “evidence” comes up a lot, that if you are really looking for evidence, then you must look at the evidence and the evidence is that the Monopolies Commission is more and more favouring monopolisation, so long as they are British controlled firms and using monopolisation as one of the weapons against foreign multinationals operating here or as one of the weapons of the conquest of space in the home areas of the foreign multinationals.

Duncan Hallas: Michael, can you comment on these two propositions please? First, that the most striking feature of the world economy over the last five or six years has been, on the one hand, the extraordinary acceleration of inflation on the world scale and its persistence. Secondly, the faltering of growth. I would like to invite you to indicate how these relatively new features fit into your analysis, given the fact that most of the things you have been describing are, in fact, processes that have been going on over a very much longer period.

MK: How does inflation on the world scale and the faltering of growth fit into the analysis? Very simply, Duncan.

In the private capitalist system there was an outside agent which controlled the supply of money and no capitalist could do anything about it if the bank did not agree—and the bank was not controlled by the capitalists. Ultimately the state more or less controlled the bank, with obvious differences in different periods of time and with different strengths of control by the state, etc. But there was an outside agency and now it is as if [tape is temporarily interrupted]. I would say that the reason for the worldwide inflation is that it is built into the restructuring of the world economy into a state capitalist economy. That each capital now controls the emission of money supply and there are no disciplines, except the discipline of experience but that takes a long time.13

There is also the faltering of growth. I do not want to enter into an argument about the Permanent Arms Economy—which I have always felt a bit abstruse, has always been worrying me—but now I think I have got it.

Leaving that aside, given the analysis that I am presenting here, the growth fits into it very easily and also the faltering of growth fits into it very easily. The growth fits into it very easily in this sense. The forming of a state capitalist system meant a huge rationalisation of the state capitals themselves. It meant a great freeing of rural labour into urban areas. It meant a certain amount of investment to meet those new workers, but nothing like the social investment that had gone on for the previous generation of workers. There was also great saving in the increasing planning within society, within each capital, in the sense that duplication was to some extent eliminated. Whether it was the reorganisation of the textile industry, the modernisation of the textile industry, the reorganisation of the motor industry or the machine tool industry—just think of any industry that has been reorganised by the state. Sometimes it has worked, sometimes it has not.

The key thing is that the building of a state capital has not only led to a great shift in the labour force to more productive occupations—I do not want to say that the others were not productive—from a capitalist point they were—but also in the elimination of a great deal of duplication in production and in the overheads and also a rationalisation of the economy. That released the productive forces, but now it has been done. The restructuring is over, well more or less over.

I am not saying that there will not be a new industry like nuclear power. I am not saying that they will not cut dead wood. That ultimately the new Mini will be on the scrapheap. All those things are possible. But the fundamental restructurings have taken place and we have got to the period when there are no new productive forces to release. They have reached the end of the denial of social overheads for the new workers. The towns are bursting at the seams. The public transport systems are smashed up. The health systems are smashed up. They cannot cope with any more new people. There is also a limit to the amount of new people that they can get because they lead to all sorts of other problems. Not only the problems of resentment because of the lowering of the average social overhead—but also other problems, political problems and so on. They have done the rationalisation as far as they can do the rationalisation—you know, the big rationalisations that took place immediately after the war. They have cut out a lot of the duplication. There is still more to go, but they have cut a lot out.

I do not think they can find new productive powers. That is why the growth has ended. The growth started because the new structure of capitalism released new productive powers. The growth stopped because the structure was in place. Now we have reached the period, and you will be able to quote it better than me Duncan, where the relations of production of an organisation of society form fetters on the productive forces. I think that is the explanation.

Anon: Can you say something more about the importance of multinationals, because they seem to be much more powerful than some of the smaller states in the world?

MK: Yes, of course, multinational corporations are more powerful. A couple of weeks ago I was doing an exercise looking down the Fortune 500 of the top American manufacturing corporations and listing the number of countries whose gross national product is smaller than the turnover of those corporations. Coca-Cola was I think 159th in the list and there were approximately 59 countries that had a gross national product less than the turnover of Coca-Cola.

There are lovely figures like that which you can use to show that this is true. But so what? All you are saying is that there are companies that operate worldwide. We all know the Coca-Cola is an American company operating worldwide because the company itself or that technology, or that kind of organisation, whatever it is, needs a larger market than even the United States can supply. And because it needs a larger market than the United States can supply, it makes agreements with other countries to operate in their territory. In other words, the nature of the world markets changes as well. The world market is not something out there, you know, outside of the national territory. The world market is something inside of somebody else’s national territory.

Pepsi Cola made an agreement with the Russians to get into the Russian home market to make Pepsi Cola. Clearly in order for them to do that, the Russians must have been offered some sort of concessions inside the American home market. There has been a deal and the nature of the deal, or rather, the accumulation of those deals, the total dealing, that forms the world market. That is what the world market is about. It is not a neutral little island called Atlantis, that we all bring our little things to—Pluto Press brings its parcel of books to Atlantis Island and says right that is the market, everything else is non-market. No, the market is in the agreements between the different state capitals to allow sales in those places. So the multinational corporation you can just consider to be the extension, the foreign productive arm, of American state capital. The Moscow Narodny Bank is the foreign, unproductive arm, of Russian state capital.

When the Poles and the West Germans combined to set up a machine tools plant in India, as they have, then you know that multinational organisation is a form of collaboration to create and sell in another market. Part of the worldwide marketing operations, only the marketing operation has changed. Now, instead of making it at home and selling abroad, it is cheaper, easier and more rational for them to make it abroad and sell it abroad. There is nothing very new about it—just the form of activity is different.

Anon [Chris Harman?]: What is your evidence that the proportion of the working class unionised is smaller today than it was in the 1920s? Secondly, what is your evidence that the strength of that unionised working class is less today than it was in the 1920s?

MK: What evidence have I got to say that the unions form a smaller proportion of the working class?

Now it really depends on two things. One of them, the figures. We now know that about 40 percent of people receiving wages and salaries in this country are in the unions. It is a huge proportion worldwide. There are places like the States which are at 16 or 17 percent, places like France with about 26 or something percent. I think that Britain is fairly high, except for the Scandinavian countries and perhaps Australia—I am not sure—but it is fairly high. But still, it is 40 percent. The working class has doubled since the 1920s. In the rest of the world it has more than doubled. Certainly in Europe the number of workers that have come into paid occupations since the war is something like 60 or 70 million. I have not got the exact figure, but it is a huge number like that. So as a general phenomenon, simply on those figures of those paid wages and salaries and the proportion of union members, I would say that in spite of the excellent record of the British trade unions, it has gone down. But that is only one element.

The second one is that I was very careful to define the working class right at the beginning. I said that there are millions of people, because of the changed structure of capital, who are now incorporated because of their relationship to capital, into the working class, that do not even receive a wage. If you accept these as members of the working class—and I know people like the old definitions, but I also know that there is a danger in these old definitions, because they do obscure reality. The reality that I have tried to show is that capital’s structure has changed in such a way that not only do they have to employ people that they would never have employed before for the new function that they have to undertake, but they also have to use them in a more systematic way than they ever did before. That is why the welfare system is so closely integrated into the family. It means that the size and the definition of the working class has to reflect that.

Taking the two things together, you will see that the number of unionised workers is smaller as a proportion of workers than before.

The strength of the unionised working class less than 1920? That I did not say. I said that the strength of the trade unions, or the strength of the bureaucrats, is less. I did say that because the unions confront a national capital rather than confront a number of capitals, that in principle they are less powerful than they were. I did not say that the unionised members are less powerful because it depends very much on other factors also. Not only the numbers of them that are organised, but also the level of consciousness, the level of feeling of security, the level of fight—that is all something that I did not deal with.

Anon: What qualitative differences are there between unions in services and in the productive industries?

MK: First of all, I take great exception to calling service industries, non-productive industries. Productive or unproductive depends on your relationship to capital. The whole point of what I said so lengthily, and probably so boringly, at the beginning was that because capital has to undertake the reproduction of labour in a way that it did not have to undertake it before, it is bringing more and more of the workforce into relationship with it, and turning therefore more and more workers into productive workers.

Now, the differences are less in the trade unions than in the kind of work. The trade unions themselves reflect the kind of work very imperfectly. So if, in fact, the teacher has to deal with the content of the curriculum, has to deal with the development of the pupil, and obviously there are some teachers that just produce the goods in lectures and then those teachers that are much more integrated into development—it can depend on the age group, on how alienated the teachers feel and also with how organised they are in things like Rank and File.14 But there is a qualitative difference in the job of turning a lathe or turning a person—a fundamental difference. The trade unions as they are structured do not reflect that fundamental difference because the trade unions in the new areas, the public services, the things that you call unproductive, they are built on the model of the traditional trade unions. They deal with wages and salaries, they are not structured around the content of the job.

I think that some of the tension between members and trade union structures derives from this. That the trade union does not answer some of the fundamental problems that the members do confront. I know that this is an area where there has been a great deal of debate in some of the Rank and File organisations—about how you deal with trade union issues. Do you deal with trade union issues purely on a wages or conditions level? Or do you deal with them where it seems that you need to deal with them, on something else as well. So although the trade unions themselves are not very different, their membership confronts different kinds of problems, and the trade unions will weaken unless they reflect that—and I do not think they will reflect that.

Anon: Can you say something about the transition from one system of capitalism to the other?

MK: How does one explain the fact that everything that I have said seems to indicate that there should be a smooth transition from the current mixed system of private and public towards a total state capitalism?

Here recently we have the banks against nationalisation, we have had advertising by the ship repairers against nationalisation. I noticed this week in the Economist that one of the leading articles is talking about a solution to the problems of chaos in the nationalised industry through the re-privatisation of the nationalised industries and so on. Obviously there is no easy solution for any capital. They are in class conflict, they are in conflict amongst themselves. There are always different options. If they were to look at the nationalised industries at the moment they would say, “My good God, how inefficient.” The nationalised industry wallahs look at the private sector and say, “My good God, how inefficient because they are so small”. Obviously, there are different interests at work. The private sector sustains a much larger middle class than the public sector. The public sector sustains a much larger petty bourgeoisie, as it were, than the private sector. Those that are going to be slaughtered by nationalisation, the private sector, are going to object thoroughly. They are getting to object in such a way that it appears to be a political objection, an objection in principle.

Actually, it is an objection about the tactics to adopt, on two levels. One level is will British capital as such be able to belt foreign capital? Now, what will strengthen it the best? The nationalisation of this or that industry, the concentration of this or that industry, the thinning of this or that industry, the annihilation of this or that industry.

That is one set of problems. And I have no doubt that you can imagine that as the problems are large that the debates also pretty heavy. There is another set of problems. Who is going to suffer personally from the solution that is adopted? You can imagine also that those who are going to be annihilated as a result of the reorganisation are going to squeal like hell. So even though the banks object to a certain policy it does not mean to say that there is not going to be some sort of progress as a result of reaction to crisis.

Look, nobody ten years ago would have said that the British motor car industry would be a nationalised industry. It was faced with complete collapse. They had to decide. The only rational decision was for them to nationalise it. Nobody ten years ago would have said that what is called Rolls Royce, the premier aero engine factory, would be a chunk of the nationalised industry. They made a balls-up with some new technology that they adopted. They had to be bailed out—it became nationalised as a result of crisis. Nobody would have thought that the state would increase its participation in British Petroleum from 51 percent to 67 percent and then have to hand it back again—except as a result of crisis. But British Petroleum was in crisis.

What I am saying is not that there is a rational person sitting in the middle called Tony Benn, saying, “Fellow directors of Great Britain Limited, I think the best thing to do for all of us is to centralise all our operations in one large operation.” Nobody is saying that. But what I am saying is that unless they do it, they will find that they are increasingly faced with the kind of crisis that British Leyland was faced with. Ultimately they would have to bring in the doctor and if that doctor happens to be Benn, even though he is now right on the outskirts, it will probably be the only thing they can think of at the time.15

Colin Barker: You are wrong about Britain and the trade union figures. The fact is that the trade union coverage of the occupied labour force is rising to very nearly 50 percent and has risen since 1964 which are the figures you are probably relying on.

If you are going to use your second criterion which is the wider definition of the workforce you also need to expand your definition of trade unions as well.

I do not want to comment on your generally rotten method, other than to say that it seems to me a continuation of 19th century evolutionism. You divide the world into two parts—before and after. Everything is either before or after and there is no sense of contradiction in your account.

That apart, we need to talk about what is new and one thing we should note about the new is about politics. The extent to which what you might call use value politics has become very much more important, and not only in Britain. Questions about nuclear power, the content of teaching and education, the whole questions about the hospital and other kinds of welfare services, which are political questions. Now the Lucas aerospace counter-plan, because shop stewards are similarly just producing a counter-plan that they want to print for every one of their workers. The question of aircraft like Concorde or airports. The question of ecology. All of these things are much more important political issues in contemporary capitalism than they were across the boundary line into your past. In the 19th century it was issues like public health and the adulteration of bread, use value questions, but they were clearly much less important politically and much less critical for capital, than they are in the second half of the 20th century.

In a sense, what you are talking about is, in fact, the process of the socialisation of production in capitalism and also questions about the quality of production and of productive activity in society becoming very much more political.

Anon: First of all, you talk about inflation and say there is no outside body to now discipline individual capitals. The fact that this helps build inflation into the state. Now that does not hold on the world level. You have these capitals competing against each other and one of the problems for many countries is they have a relationship with the IMF which is very strong on discipline. Even relatively powerful countries like our own can be disciplined. It is not so that you have the freedom of action that you suggest in this particular area.

The other thing I was unhappy about was your idea of the world markets. What may be true of a comparison between the USA and the USSR is not true of a comparison between the USA and Lesotho or countries like that. About 70 percent or 80 percent of the countries of the world have a balance of payments problem which is precisely because there is an unequal relationship between these. They are not in an equal bargaining position and I do not think your way of looking at it actually shows these contradictions that arise.

Alex Callinicos: Unlike Colin Barker I do want to take up Mike’s rotten method. I think it is really quite fundamental.

What Mike is saying is that what we are moving towards is a situation in which there is a world of fully integrated state capitals. That is to say a situation in which in each country there is a self-contained single state capital which is in control of the situation within that country and which relates, he does not say on equal terms, because that will show some of the problems in his argument, with the other state capitals.

All our objections, about the multinationals, about the Monopolies Commission, about goodness knows what else, our claims for evidence and things like that, simply reflect the fact that the situation is not perfectly realised. It is only something we are moving towards, this situation of fully integrated state capitals, and there are all these leftovers which we hold on to in our old fashioned way. All the things we love, all the things we used to say, all the things that Mike actually used to say.

What I really want to object to is the idea that there is this ­homogenous, straightforward trend towards a world of self-contained state capitals bumping against each other like a lot of billiard balls. The objection about the multinationals is not a simple empirical thing about unrealised trends. It is actually fundamental to how the world economy operates today—that side by side with the trend towards state capitalism is the trend towards the ­internationalisation of production. That is not something that you should simply toss aside. Mike is right to say that the trend to the internationalisation of production takes place within the context of the national state. That all the multinationals have their own home bases. That all of them need their own national states to back them up in situations of crisis. All that is of course true.

But at the same time, once one says that the trend is also towards the internationalisation of production, that overturns any idea that we are moving towards a straightforward world of state capital. What it means is that the criteria of whether or not you are going to end up on top in the game of competition between individual national capitals is going to be dependent on your ability to operate, not as a state capital within one single national unit, but as an international capital. It is not simply a question of the relationship between the US and Lesotho, it is a question of the relationship between the US and the other major advanced capitalist countries. The pecking order within those countries is going to be determined by the relationship, by their ability to operate as international capitals to attain dominance on an international scale.

What that means is the picture, even within the British economy where you can point to British Leyland as the sign of a trend towards state capitalism, is much more complicated because, at the same time that we had the array of agreements to prop up British Leyland, we have had the same array deployed to prop up Chrysler. Chrysler is a component of a multinational American corporation. That is not just some frictional picture we can leave out of the big picture. That reflects the fact that the American capital is a much bigger, much stronger, much more efficient international capital than British capital and therefore is able to disorganise and disintegrate the emerging British state capitalism and actually exploit the trends toward state capitalism within the British economy to its own benefit.

Highlighting that trend towards the internationalisation of production means that Mike’s picture is fundamentally very, very, one-sided. I think that there are fantastic insights contained within it, and I hope that those will come up more in the discussion of the crisis in Thursday’s lecture. However, I think simply to adopt what he has to say about state capitalism in a straightforward way leads to a completely distorted picture of the way in which the world economy is developing.

Anon: I am very much in favour of looking forward not backwards—but you must not forget there are dangers in being long-sighted, as well as dangers in being short-sighted. The danger of being long-sighted is that if you do not look at your feet you can get your boots in a mess! In Mike’s attempt to look so far into the distance I think he actually ignores the real concrete problems that present themselves.

To me it is most horrifically clear that his analysis of trade unionism is not a new position. It was a position that was first developed around 1916 by people who have a similar global view to that which he has. It was not true in 1916—it was a long way in the distance then—and it is still a long way in the distance now.

It really amounts to saying this. Because the trade union bureaucracy is on the same basis nationally as capitals and therefore the trade union bureaucracy cannot confront the roots of capitalist exploitation, therefore we have to radically rethink the traditional Marxist and Leninist position on work in the trade union movement. What a load of nonsense for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the reason why the trade bureaucracy is so integrated into the state is not a sign of the weakness of trade unionism, it is a sign of the strength of trade unionism. The fact is, there was much more of a monopolisation of capital in 1933 than there was in 1916. In 1933 the trade unions were much less integrated into the state than they had been in 1916, because capital succeeded in this country in giving them a bloody nose, in humiliating the unions. There was therefore less need of integration with them. The degree of integration and scale of integration of the trade union bureaucracy with the state over the last 30 years is because of the massive increase in the strength of trade unions.

You cannot argue against it by saying we are now including in the working class people who Marxists 50 years ago did not include in the working class. Because if we now include housewives in the working class, housewives reproduced labour 50 years ago. If we now include teachers, teachers reproduced labour 50 years ago. The fact is, the people who worked in the munitions factory in the First World War could read and write and that was a precondition of working in the munitions factory.

There were many other features, there were more housewives, nevertheless you cannot introduce this argument into the fact that the trade unions are immeasurably stronger and that is precisely why we have integration of the trade unions into the state. That does not mean there is a limitation to trade unionism. What it actually means is that trade unionism, in a period of crisis, raises political questions much more sharply than it did in the past. That is precisely why the trade union leaders are frightened of confronting the national capitals. It is not because they are weak vis-a-vis the national capital. It is because it becomes more and more difficult for them to confront them in a reformist sense.

Take the case of Italy. The capitulation of the Italian Communist Party to Italian capital is not a result of the fact that there is no way in which you can oppose from inside Italy, which is anti-capitalist, without being contained in the system, because in Italy there is a huge chunk of the economy that is very backward, very parasitic, very wasteful. Things the Italian Communist Party will preach on about it at great length—but they cannot confront that without confronting the whole future of Italian capitalism. Therefore they are driven to reformism.

There is nothing in the situation between the rank and file inside those unions that have to be driven to reformism. In the present period the crisis inside the unions, work in the unions, activity in the unions, is much more important, more significant for revolutionaries than it was 40 or 50 years ago.

I think what Mike has come up with is looking so far into the distance that he has been blinded by the sun and he actually does not see the problem that concretely faces revolutionaries.

Sybil Cock: It is useful to criticise the traditionalism in the organisation and what Colin was saying about the politics of use values is a good way of posing it. I think it is absolutely true in terms of nuclear power and the content of education and other things like that we really do not know what we are doing. We can at least talk about it now.

The thing I really object to, in the way you were posing it, is this stages thing—the past into the future. It is a gradual development—people were talking about this five or ten years ago.

But what I really want to ask is in relation to your article in the IS journal. You make some remarks at the end about the political consequences of our analysis being wrong. I would really like to know what you mean by this in practice.

Anon: One point following from the internationalisation of capital.

It would seem that the trade union movement, in combating this internationalisation of capital, has come up with considerable difficulties. I refer to the possibility of getting agreement amongst various countries to implement the TUAC document which was put out by the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD.16 Not that this means a great deal, but I feel that the case of Chrysler and the case of Ford, although the threat was not actually implemented, is an interesting point because you have a situation where you have got the internationalisation of capital where decisions are being made, if you like for the motor car industry in say Detroit, whereas individual trade unions have to operate on a national basis. Apart from international trade secretariats, which I do not think have developed to any great extent, I think this points to a weakening of the trade union response internationally to the internationalisation of capital. I think this is an important point and I wonder what direction you think this will go.

MK: There is quite a lot here. On Colin’s point that 50 percent of the workforce are unionised I do not understand. As far as I know, of the 25.5 million people who are working, there are 11 million people, these are probably 1971 figures, so by now up to 12 million people in trade unions. And so 50 percent sounds more like 40 percent to me but that obviously is not something for discussion. That is something for both of us to race away to the library.17


1 See the articles collected in Kuper (ed), 2018.

2 See Cox, 2019, p112.

3 Callinicos, 1977.

4 Kidron, 1977.

5 Harman, 1977.

6 Barker, 1978. The manuscript from which this article was extracted is now being published, see Barker, 2019a, b and c.

7 Harman, 1984; Harman, 2009.

8 Harman, 1991. See also my own discussion in Callinicos, 2009, chapter 2.

9 Another extract from this manuscript was published in International Socialism not long before Mike’s death—Kidron, 2002.

10 Probably a reference to Braverman, 1974, a subject of much discussion at the time.

11 Jack Jones, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union (now incorporated in Unite) between 1968 and 1978, was one of the main architects of the Social Contract under the Labour government of 1974-9.

12 A committee chaired by the historian Alan Bullock recommended in January 1977 that, in companies with more than 2,000 employees, trade unionists should be elected as representatives on the board of directors. Bosses’ opposition and then the advent of Thatcher made it a dead letter.

13 In his second talk Kidron elaborated at length on this point, arguing that in the “state capitalist system”, not only have the state and capital merged, but so too have the “producers and suppliers of goods and services, and the suppliers of finance… This leaves the system without an external disciplining force…it has no mechanism to clean out its dead wood. It has no mechanism to lighten the load. It is weak in controlling the population of capitals. It is weak in controlling the claims to resources by individual capitals. What actually is the case is that by the system losing a state which is larger, more powerful, than the individual capitals, it has lost most of the mechanisms to discipline the individual capitals… That is why we have reached a situation in which inflation is more or less endemic—because nobody can really prevent it.”

14 The Rank and File initiative was an attempt by the IS to organise workers through a series of projects including a number of rank and file newspapers introduced by IS members in different industries.

15 Tony Benn was industry secretary in 1974-5 but was demoted to energy secretary by prime minister Harold Wilson after he and rest of the Labour left failed to prevent the referendum of June 1975 voting in favour of Britain staying in the European Economic Community.

16 This is probably a reference to The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, first published in 1976; the current version can be found at

17 The tape breaks off here.


Barker, Colin, 1978, “The State as Capital”, International Socialism 1 (summer),

Barker, Colin, 2019a, “Notes on Capital and the State: part 1” (25 January),

Barker, Colin, 2019b, “Notes on Capital and the State: part 2” (8 February),

Barker, Colin, 2019c, “Notes on Capital
and the State: part 3” (22 February),

Braverman, Harry, 1974, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (Monthly Review Press).

Callinicos, Alex, 1977, “Editorial”, International Socialism 100 (1st series, July),

Callinicos, Alex, 2009, Imperialism and Global Political Economy (Polity).

Cox, Roger, 2019, “Marxist Politics at Work during the Long Boom and its Breakdown”, International Socialism 161 (winter),

Harman, Chris, 1977, “Better a Valid Insight than a Wrong Theory”, International Socialism 100 (1st series, July),

Harman, Chris, 1984, Explaining the Crisis: A Marxist Reappraisal (Bookmarks).

Harman, Chris, 1991, “The State and Capitalism Today”, International Socialism 51 (summer),

Harman, Chris, 2009, Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx (Bookmarks).

Kidron, Michael, 1977, “Two Insights Don’t Make a Theory”, International Socialism 100 (1st series, July),

Kidron, Michael, 2002, “Failing Growth and Rampant Costs: Two Ghosts in the Machine of Modern Capitalism”, International Socialism 96 (winter),

Kuper, Richard (ed), 2018, Capitalism and Theory: Selected Works of Michael Kidron (Haymarket).