Probably the most favored talking point for left liberals and even some socialists is “big business”. Corporations, big companies, lobbyists, all things that if you pay any attention to American politics especially you are already familiar with, especially in light of the recent Panama Papers scandal. For left liberals big business is at the crux of of the problem with the American political system. It is often assumed that if we just got big money “out” of our political system then the state, being the natural democratic representative of the “people” will begin to function properly. This focus on big business is problematic as it obfuscates not only the reality of the state, but also the nature of the capitalist mode of production.
I touched upon this in my critique of “democracy spring”, specifically the idea that the state will function democratically if only we got big money out of politics. What this doesn’t take into account is that money and politics are natural friends in capitalist society. Any capitalist society runs according to the law of value which subordinates each and every institution in society to the whim of the market. In capitalist society the production of more and more value (commodities) takes precedent over democracy. As a result the state/government in capitalist society is made institutionally subject to capitalist profit margins. Even if we were to have politicians and states-people who could not be bought out and had desires completely separate from those of the capitalist class the state will still need capital to fund itself and keep the national economy afloat. In such a situation capitalists usually engage in “capital flight” by de-investing in the national economy and investing in climates more suitable to their interests. In Chile when socialist president Salvador Allende was elected capitalists de-invested in the economy which compelled Allende to take on multiple state projects to produce revenue for the national economy and the state itself. This theory of “getting money out of politics” also ignores the fundamental nature of the state. The state is not the representative of the general public as many left liberals think it is. Many left liberals as a result of this belief think that neo-liberalism simply consists of a roll back of state control when in reality the state was and is extremely involved in neo-liberal restructuring. The state itself is an undemocratic institution that represents the interests of a minority above society and is controlled by that minority. Peter Kropotkin details how the state maintains power against the large mass of people for an elite minority in “The State: It’s Historic Role”.
“There is, of course, the German school which takes pleasure in confusing State with Society. This confusion is to be found among the best German thinkers and many of the French who cannot visualize Society without a concentration of the State; and it is for this reason that anarchists are generally upbraided for wanting to destroy society’ and of advocating a return to ‘the permanent war of each against all’.
However to argue in this way is to overlook altogether the advances made in the domain of history in the past thirty or so years; it is to overlook the fact that Man lived in Societies for thousands o years before the State had been heard of^?it is to forget that so far as Europe is concerned the State is of recent origin – it barely goes back to the sixteenth century; and finally, it is to ignore that the most glorious periods in Man’s history are those in which civil liberties and communal life had not yet been destroyed by the State, and in which large numbers of people lived in communes and free federations.”(http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/state/state_1.html)
Even if all this can be dismissed there are still fundamental problems with the focus on “big business” as such. If we assume the problem is “big business” and not “capitalism” then we ignore all the other aspects of capitalism that make the modern form of society so problematic. We ignore markets which by necessity subordinate all production and human labor to the production of what can be exchanged on the market and thus to the demands and whims of commodity exchange and cause unwanted externalities. We ignore wage labor which dictates that a worker must have the product of their labor extracted from them and get only part of it back in return for their work. We ignore the law of value as mentioned above which is what compels the institutional connection between money and politics. This is just barely scratching the service.
Ultimately “big business” as such must be viewed as a function of capitalist society, corporations did not come out of nature nor did lobbyists come up to earth from the depths of hell. They are both the logical results of the way capitalist society moves and develops. If we really want to have a democratic social system which is not controlled by “big money” we must move for the complete and total abolition of capitalism.