Free West and Far West
In the process of production under capitalism are two parties labour and capital. The State is supposed to arbitrate but isn't impartial because hidden forces control it, resulting exploitation of the workers by elite makers of the Law. Savage West!
The Free West and the Far West
Fernando García Izquierdo
The state versus the general interest.
When there are two antagonist classes at play in a country there is, by definition, a conflict in society. Now, the main characteristic concerning this conflict under capitalism is that this confrontation is most clearly shown in the process of production. Everybody agrees that WORK is the Wealth of Nations, even the capitalists, Adam Smith being one of them. There must be work, there must be production (including services), and there must be growth. We all have to eat, that is the main observation.
The partners in the process of production must create wealth. That is what it boils down to. These partners are Capital and Labour. In legal terms they are (and I shall call them) the two parties to a working contract.
In our world the State is supposed to regulate social relations. It is the current form of society (the State). So that those that control the State, at the very least, ought to be neutral. You cannot be the regulatory power (State) and be linked, say, to the capitalists, which we have said is only one section or class of society. When there is the question of a conflict, the possibility of a disagreement, social struggle, etc. you cannot be the arbiter and at the same time part of one of the sides.
And now, the question before us is: can the said regulatory State proceed (intervene in a social conflict, say) to hear one of the parties, and only one, on an acute question of the interpretation of the Law under which the parties to the ‘working contract’ operate, enter in the process of production, the capitalists? Is it right that the capitalists dictate to the State how the Law is to be drafted or modified in order to organise the finance of the State, wages and profits, etc.? Does one of the parties (Capital, of course) have the right to impose itself upon the State, saying this and that, when obviously the other party has not the same right, is left at times absolutely without rights?
Analysing the problem from another angle (for all this constitutes a big problem), let me mention something I saw (I witnessed) more than half a century ago. Then, the world had just won a war again fascism. The workers knew that without a change in the way our capitalist society functioned in the matter of wages and profit the world would not advance towards real democracy.
The fact is that we might have won the war (1939-19459, but the rich were still THE RICH, and nothing at bottom was altered in our society. I grew up under fascism, and miraculously began knocking about the Free World (Western Europe) shortly after the end of the war.
The workers (I saw this a hundred times in France, Britain, and then in Australia, America, etc.) were considered as dangerous revolutionaries by the rich, simply because they (the workers) demanded distribution. I ask you, dear reader, who probably are progressive and think that a change is necessary, inevitable, and consequently do not think that the term revolutionary is objectionable, to imagine what might have been for the workers of the thirties to be called indecent or dangerous revolutionaries (simply because they were workers) in the manner in which we talk of the “terrorists” today.
But let us go back to the question of the antagonism between labourers and capitalists in the process of production, and the meaning of the sentence “the state regulates social relations”. We started intimating that the powers-that-be, all those that command, who constantly give speeches, whose writings are paid, etc., try to convey to us the idea that the State is neutral in this confrontation between capital and labour of which we have been talking. In reality it is not neutral, far from it.
Marx said that the State is an instrument of domination, more particularly, an instrument of class domination. First of all, the State is undeniably in a few hands, the hands (for the time being) of the rich. This does not need to be proved: it is evident.
And exploitation is sure to follow. Or let’s say this differently, how can the State be a fair arbiter, say, in the relations of the parties in the process of production we have mentioned, when the government is (as we have seen) in the hands of the capitalists? And sure enough, they, the money-accumulators (which is another word for capitalists) are always in command of things, in command of the State. I have said this before and I repeat it, because, being quite obvious, few seem to know that we are governed, not by our chosen representaives, but by occult forces that by definition we do not control.
The same said paid sycophants are constantly repeating the story (in order to confuse the public even more) of “the majesty of the law”. Our law, the law of the so-called Free World is above classes. “Boloney!” an Australian friend of mine used to say in the face of similar assertions. The sycophants may say what they like, but I say: It is a big lie.
Or reverting to the statement of the State being a good arbiter in social conflicts. It is not. It cannot be. Because the State being in the hands of the rich, as we have shown, the State is “party” to the conflict. And no one can be arbiter in a conflict and at the same time be one the parties (or portion of one of the parties.)
And what about the law itself? Well, the law “ne sert qu’à mantenir le pauvre dans sa misère et le riche dans son usurpation”. Or, in English the law “serves only to keep the pauper in his poverty and the rich man in the position he has usurped”. (J.J.Rousseau)
In France, the country where I live, I learned five years ago, tangibly, so to say, what is under Capitalism-Imperialism the importance of “le Patronat”, how the Confederation of Industries (that is the English translation) COMMANDS, perhaps with other hidden forces.
One day, when I was already a retired old man, in a photograph that appeared on the papers, I saw a crew of about a dozen individuals huddled together in the Elysée Palace gardens, all rubicund fellows and and a very pretty elderly lady.
Monsieur François Hollande was also there, looming somewhat at distance, ready to wait on the Patronat.
Le Palais de l’Elysée is of course the official residence of the President of the Republique, and it happened that Monsieur François Hollande, unexpectedly, had been chosen to occupy the post. The Patronat wanted to see him, the more so as during the election campaign he had shamelessly paraded among the crowds as a left winger and “socialiste.”
When I saw that photogragh I could not but think that the Patronat’s intention in visiting the newly elected president of the republic was to stop in the bud, to curtail any movement by the other party to ‘le contrat de travail’, the other part of the process of production, a set of “dangerous revolutionaries” or WORKERS, any movement towards a little bit more of social justice. And truly, the workers and the people as a whole were expecting a better world to come, in view of what the ‘candidat socialiste’ had been promising when he sought to be elected.
It is funny, but seeing the photograph of the Patronat, taken in the Elysée Palace, suddenly and unexpectedly, the representation came to my mind of something I saw many many decades before in a picture-theatre in Zaragoza, when I was a kid. I saw President Hollande standing on top of a flight of stone steps at the entrance of the palace with the industrialists all ready to devour him, as it seemed to me, and the remembrance came in an instant to my mind. Some images from the pictures.
I saw Tom Mix, the handsome Cowboy of the Grand Prairie, pursuing a pack of brigands in America, a mythical land even for the wee little fellow that I was. Don’t ask me why I thought, that morning of 2012, of the famous (now legendary) cowboy. I had never, not once, thought of said Tom Mix after I left Zaragoza, a boy of eight.
An unrelated second part of this article.
I can consider myself lucky to have kept all these years in my now tired mind remembrances of some few things past. To communicate those images to my contemporaries is for me, now, a great pleasure. I know that I can be a bore, therefore, if anybody wants to read what I write, well and proper, and if not, the reader can throw my thoughts into the dustbin, I suppose. Some times I only write for self-clarification purposes.
Anyhow, I remember that towards the end of the year 1935 all my family (five of us) were moving with some precipitation from Barcelona, in Catalonya, to the Aragonese capital Zaragoza.
I still have a colourful representation of our journey, mostly because of the anguish, the absolute fear I must have felt was reflected on my parents’ faces, travelling on an overcrowded train, and that is one of the things a child tends to retain in the cells of his brain all his life. We were escaping from Barcelona looking at the end of the line for some refuge, I supposed. Our ultimate destiny was Valladolid. Many of the things I am going to describe I learned much later from others, mostly my mother. This is the story:
Eighty or eighty-one years ago, my father found himself, at thirty-one, in a real pickle. There was turmoil in Spain. Worst of all, he was a “funcionaro de Estado”, he had been recently sent from Castile to Barcelona, as a police inspector, and that for a capital full of anarchists was not an easy task. For there was going to be a war in our country. Everybody knew that.
The War of Spain was to be a solemn tragedy, for Spaniards and Europeans alike. My mother has told me that there came a time (in the thirties) when people were so afraid, that they asked one another with agitated faces in the street, the market place, from window to window or balcony to balcony: “¿Habrá guerra?” (Will there be war?)
Thousands of quite innocent people were sent before firing squads everywhere just in the first two or three days that followed the start of the war. Statistics say that a million people lost their lives because of the war that went from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939. It depended what you were (“de izquierdas”, “de derechas”) and on the place you were found when the fighting started.
My father packed off just in time, for in Barcelona he would have been ‘man- dead-walking’ the instant General Franco had formed his fascist government in Burgos. Spain was instantly divided in two zones, ‘the Fascists’, ‘the Reds’.
We arrived in Zaragoza (which was one of the most fascistic capitals, with the said Burgos, Valladolid and Salamanca of all the Peninsular cities) just in time.
But it is not about the war I want to write today, but about Tom Mix. And about my father. He was an aficionado to the very noble art, as he used to say of “cinematografía”, which in Spain those days was (consisted of) only a set of then already old Hollywood films.
I have said that my country was involved in the madness of a rabid war, indeed a carnage that lasted three years. But all is relative. In my little world of a six-year-old boy life went on its course, and nobody must think that I had begun charging my mind with considerations of War and Peace. For me Zaragoza represented opening my little eyes to the cinema. Of a Sunday my father would take me and my elder brother to a picture house down town and we followed him, catching the bus, etc., as when you start a journey to paradise.
Such is the miracle of memory, the strength of a human brain, that the other day, when I was preparing in my mind this article, suddenly the name came to my lips of the street where we lived, from which we caught the bus to town: Calle Cánovas del Castillo número 9. I had not pronounced it, ever, for these seventy-nine years. There is where we lived.
And I still recollect the format (roughly) of the extraordinary palace-theatre where we sat, my father between Miguel and me, surrounded by a multitude of little kids like us, with their respective fathers. It was 2 p.m. the starting time, the “sesión infantil”; but we were there long before that hour, sharing with the other hundred spectators a hundred wooden seats, all occupied, right to the first row, much before the show began.
Two or three pictures were of a Sunday shown non-stop. Spoken films. Just before that time the films had been silent. There had been then the figure of a man thumping the keys of an old piano just under the big square screen where you saw the images, black-and-white, people running and moving their arms, followed every now and then by a blank screen with a line of words that told the spectators what the actors and actresses were supposed to be saying.
What we contempleted in the picture house of Zaragoza those Sundays at the beginning of the war were no longer silent films. We saw and heard Shirley Temple and her Gang of little Rogues; we saw Buster Keaton and laughed at his much-appreciated gestures and cries and other trifling. Heard, but did not understand, for as for the language it was pure American; but we followed the story. And we followed all the adventures of Dick Turpin, a gentleman of the olden times, riding his valuable steed, and many other actors and actresses performing their roles, film after film; always what we expected. The one I liked most was Tom Mix, in his confrontation with the Bandits, all honourable horseriders of grand standing. Indeed, except for one occasion I think I never saw Tom Mix standing up, on solid soil.
The one exception was one day when he was standing, looming high above his interlocutors, upon the top of a flight of stone steps at the entrance of a building, which I gathered was his official residence. There was a crew of about twenty rough fellows standing down below, huddled together in close camaraderie and great respect of the authority.
Of course, what the bandits liked most was authority, controlled authority. They did not want to get rid of the Sherif. They just wanted the Sherif to obey them. That is why rascals and mountebanks generally pay visits to the nominal authorites, police stations and palaces alike.
But generally speaking in each of those films, which we liked so much, people were fulfilling their obligations, ‘los Buenos’ and ‘los Malos’ alike. That is, the Authorities played their role of president or whatever, the Bandits their role of confirmed brigands. And life followed its normal course, always the same.
We kiddies saw them riding their horses or their mares, and that was what we were told to expect. Tom Mix was a gentleman rider of the old school. We liked above all: to see him riding upon his perfectly immaculate white horse… a hundred children shouting with pleasure or anxiety, enouraging him and fearing for his life; for all depended on who rode after whom. And we stamped our feet on the wooden floor until the air became unbreathable and the English shouts of cowboys and rogues imposible to hear.
I can’t say I remember what exactly I thought then. Perhaps there was no animosity between Buenos y Malos; all was pure sport, exercise, authority chasing bad profiteers and so on. A lie!! Perhaps the Bandits were of the same stuff as the Sherifs, all chosen by superior forces to play their roles. Always the same!!
If I had had then the experience I have now, seeing these the correct way down would have been easy. The ones were robbers, who had become rich and powerful with their robbery (cattle and horses, etc.) and had become big activists in the Free Market. However, at that time long past, all I saw was that my hero was untouchable and untouched. He always won, always in a new black suit and polished high boots: plus that large-brimmed hat and white kerchief. Not a speck of dust in him. Whereas “los pobres” were always horribly dirty.
Oh, cowboys and bandits of the Far West, riding on the Grand Prairie, how many hours of absolute felicity you gave us in time of war! the paradise of the children of my generation. How much I owe to Tom Mix and a thousand American heroes who came rolling along right till the fifties and sixties, when finally my eyes were opened, precisely working with Americans, for American corporations. Tom Mix! Never even gave him a thought since Zaragoza. Why did his image come back to my mind that day, in 2012, when I saw a representation of François Hollande on the “perron de l’Elysée” the entrance to the presidential palace?
I saw the inmaculate hero, at the crest of the hill, under a torrid sun, and still riding up and down without fear, and we the children applauding, for he was a brave one, for he was immense, surrounded as he was by the villains of the nation, activists, profiteers, cattle breeders of the West.
At times, it happened that he and his ministerial fellows became weak, and were pursued to be brought to task on the Grand Prairie of the West. They all carried guns. The villains Winchester rifles, the best weapons of the day, and America had begun to build weapons with a sharper edge.
When they were followed by the sherif and his adjutants, the scoundrels, without slowing up at all, were seen standing on their stirrups, turning head and trunk, holding the Winchester high in their hands, viewing, lifting the rifle a little, still backwards… pum! pum! pum!... quite elegantly, though I don’t know if any of ours was killed: nor of the bandits, when it was the turn of these to run away and of the sherifs to discharge their rifles. Tom Mix on these occasions utilised a silver revolver, which he always carried with him, the dirty bandits galloping away on their foaming black horses.
As I have said, and several times repeated, I was only a child in time of war, and whatever my young brain understood of what I saw or otherwise perceived through his senses those days with Miguel and my Daddy is already old stuff; it has been altered one thousand times, by images which I have received from other sources. Realites I’ve come across during my long life.
In Spanish there is a beautiful term, ‘Filosofía barata’ (it means rubbish); I now ask the reader to forgive me if she or he finds that in this article I have been raving too much. I couldn’t help it when I talk of my past long ago. Besides, when my father took Miguel and me to the pictures in Zaragoza, the war was raging all over the country, but specially nearby: the Reds had crossed the river Ebro (their only great victory in all the war) and were approaching Zaragoza. My dear father was a wonderful parent. He loved his family and took us two away from the reality of the war, away from the calamities of a terrible carnage, never heard of in contemporary European History. Unfortunately the carnage would extend within a couple of years… it all would become worse and worse.
Now, in case the reader, seeing how profitably my father, Miguel and I spent Sunday afternoons those years in Zaragoza, should ask: “But where was your mother, sir?”; I’ll tell her that my mother “estaba haciendo sus labores”, that is to say, she was performing her function as a married woman: cleaning the house, a big task in itself, carrying out a thousand little chores, besides: dusting the furniture, the shelves, nick-nacks and chandeliers, and starting to cook the evening meal. Moreover, recently she had added to her many “labores” the immense task of looking after her wee third boy, having to feed and clean the little master, and to calm him down when he had a tantrum which happened fairly often, the latest arrival in the family, my little brother Alberto.