The Third International after Lenin

Friday, November 18, 2016

Separation of powers: the Marxist view

....Working people should care if the president can act as if Congress does not exist. We should recognize and be concerned about moves that strengthen the powers of the executive branch of the bosses’ government—and no less so when it is done with a veneer of doing “good things” for the people.

Obama’s NLRB appointments and other executive decrees represent an acceleration of a dangerous trend toward elements of Bonapartism, a trend that gained some momentum with executive actions under the presidencies of George W. Bush and William Clinton.

Bonapartism is a term coined by founders of the communist movement out of experiences with Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s regime in France from 1852 to 1870. It refers to a form of capitalist rule resorted to during times of sharpening class struggle characterized by a strong executive power that demagogically appeals to “the people” and seeks to appear to stand above class conflicts. While this is not posed today, the Obama administration’s drive to strengthen its powers over those of Congress and the courts greases the skids for reactionary forces who in the future will look to give growing Bonapartist trends more backbone.

Obama and the bourgeois-minded professional layer he belongs to are not property-owning capitalists. While useful to the ruling class in maintaining the social relations of capitalist production, they have no direct hand in production or capital accumulation itself. This self-styled meritocracy exists at the behest of and is beholden to the ruling families in power, making them both insecure in their social status and fearful of the working class. They display some of the strongest tendencies toward Bonapartist powers in politics today. But when their penchant for executive power runs into conflict with the interests of the capitalist rulers, the meritocracy’s illusion that they wield some independent power in politics gets slapped down.

The separation of powers and curbs on the executive branch of government drafted into the U.S. Constitution slow down and sometimes “gridlock” the ability of the capitalist rulers to make and carry out decisions. This is good for the working class; it affords us more space to organize and act in our separate interests.

The meritocracy has disdain for both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which for them are passé documents that get in the way of carrying out their “progressive agenda” for the people, who would be more “grateful” if they weren’t so dumb and backward. “Our founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes,” Obama complained in a Feb. 6, 2012, interview with NBC’s Today Show.

What the ruling class and its meritocratic lackeys fear above all is a confident working-class movement that fights for its own independent interests. Defending constitutional and democratic protections is part of carving out political space to organize and build such a movement.

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