Issues of Ascendancy

1 post / 0 new
Issues of Ascendancy
Printer-friendly version

As discussed elsewhere the main problem in discussing decadence is that those people, comrades or not, without an historical perspective on issues are very unlikely to understand the concept


But, even for those of us that don’t agree that ideas like ‘there has always been wars’, humans are always aggressive and violent, ;human beings are by nature ….’ & ‘capitalism has always been brutal’ say it all, I do think it is hard to conceive of how different things were under capitalisms ascendant period ie its hard not to use current ideas and behaviours to project back onto the past events.


So I am interested to ask about what features of ascendant capitalism stand out for other comrades?


I am prompted to this by picking up a book about transportation to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The stark descriptions of life in Britain as a result of the emergence of capitalist relations  is quite frightening as is the as is the social structure built up in Australia itself.  (maybe ill have to go back to Engels’ book next?)


In Britain the situation of the working class was dire and the ruling class viewed pretty much all workers as a criminal class because that was the situation  the emerging workers found themselves in -  dreadful living conditions even if you could rent a home, temporary work,  brutal working conditions that were as bad as being in prison.   Hence when the American colonies were cut off, transportation was seen as the answer.   Migration from europe was a consequence of individual freedoms capitalism gave as well as the dire conditions.  Nowadays migration is in the opposite direction because different parts of the world are being trashed by capitalist relations.    This is the reality of ascendancy as feudalism breaks up and capitalist employment relations begin to impact on society as a whole.


Members of the ruling class felt they bore no responsibility for others in society. Obviously no social security nor employment regulations or general welfare regulations, but also no police existed to begin with, just the courts and punishment.  Law focussed more than even today on protecting property and the propertied class.  Crime and misbehaviour were punished brutally if not mortally.


I was also struck recently by something I came across in Workers Dreadnought complaining that employers had used the police to break a strike whereas today we would expect that.


On the state itself, the change in the function and structure of the state is major yet easy to fail to recognise.  Its easy to see State capitalism as just about ownership of property. This may sound obvious but its easy to forget  the state  as we know it today was almost non existent up to the start of the 20th century  There was a government and parliament and an armed forces but little in the way of an administrative body.   I came across stats saying the UK state only had 1500 civilian employees in 1800 and even by 1920 the armed forces still accounted for 55% of UK state employees.