nationalism

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sat Apr 8 22:56:38 MDT 1995


Although like many perhaps on this list, I do not agree with the more
radical anarchist implications in Alex Trotter's post, I find it a very
relevant and penetrating commentary on where we are. The strategy of the
national liberation movement is without a shadow of a doubt an alliance
with that section of capital that will, consciously or unconsciously, and
for whatever partial limited, dubious or confused reasons, support the
national or other democratic demands of the socialist "proletarian"
forces. It is such a widespread pattern, even without conscious communist
involvement, to be seen as "objectively" arising out of a common
alignment of class forces in the world.

As a citizen of the world, and an inhabitant of the oldest imperialist
country, in the Leninist sense, I have no doubt that I have a duty to
support the just democratic struggles of peoples oppressed by the
imperialism of my country. In my spare time, for a number of years for
that reason I tried to aid the struggle against apartheid, and I have to
agree now with Alex that the new South Africa is indeed under tremendous
pressure to go along with the demands of global capital. Indeed in many
ways the alliance, that the ANC and South African Communist Party
tolerated and tried to use was with international global capital against
local narrow Afrikaner capital. And now the Government of National Unity
is indeed one that includes representatives of the SACP and
representatives (the minister of finance no less) of that wing of capital
allied with international capital.

So although Joe Slovo and Mandela shine out like saints, I want to unite
with Alex in agreeing how hard the reality of the truth is, if we are to
wrestle honestly on this list with how real progress can be clawed
forward inch by inch.

Where Alex is wrong is that the ANC for most of its members remains a
liberation movement, and the alliance with capital is a temporary
alliance which they would wish to rewrite as soon as they have any
alternative in the real world that enables them to do so. Hence the
urgent necessity for democrats and socialists in the developed world to
unite efforts in destroying politically and theoretically the ideologies
of neo-classicism shoring up the domination of global capital through the
IMF and the World Bank, and the network of Transnationals.

And the theme, conscious or not, of the national democratic movement goes
deeper than this too. Not only has it been a major progressive force in
this century in defeating colonialism, and obliging some democratic
concessions in continents like Latin America. In countries like China,
[1000 million people with an economy exanding very fast] it might just,
just possibly
be a point of retrenchment from which at a later stage further
democratic progress may be possible.  (See the interesting article by Su
Shaozhi, dissident Chinese Marxist, called "Rethinking Marxism in the
Light of Chinese Reforms" in the book just published by Routledge,
"Whither Marxism? Global Crises in International Perspective", edited by
Magnus and Cullenberg.)

And secondly as we in the advanced economies find the power of the
industrial working class alone too weak to ensure a path to socialism,
and we are obliged to consider anew broad democratic alliances, eg with
feminists and environmentalists against the arbitrariness of the private
ownership and the control of social production, we too are in practice,
often and unconsciously, exploring a strategy that may be called national
democratic, (though I hope few of us would be nationalists, where the
nation is not oppressed but is an oppressor). That seemed to me very
evident in the very interesting debate a few months back about Bernie
Sanders, who clearly has made compromises with capital, and is still
progressive. And in that I found Ron Press's remarks coming from the
experience of a broad national liberation movement, effortlessly relevant
to the metropolitan progressive country.

The broad pattern of a national democratic alliance, adapted to an
increasingly global world, would make all of us in fact "capitalist
roaders". But if socialism in one country, or even social democracy in
one country, looks statistically decreasingly probable, (and here I bow
to Marxists from a Trotskyist background), what alternative is there?

- because Alex, even if you think the state *should* have withered away
by now, and even if many people like you may be able to make great
contributions in fighting for civil rights throughout the world, if state
structures do continue to exist, all struggles against their oppressive
aspects objectively and increasingly converge now on a global compromise
with those sections of capital willing to co-operate with the most urgent
needs of the human race.

Chris Burford, London

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 > From owner-marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu Sat Apr  8 19:28:04 1995
 > Date: Sat, 8 Apr 1995 13:47:38 -0400 (EDT)
 > From: Alex Trotter <uburoi at panix.com>
 > To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
 > Subject: nationalism
 > Mime-Version: 1.0
 > Sender: owner-marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
 > Reply-To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
 >
 >
 > I thought it should be readily apparent that there is a connection
 > between Leninist theories of imperialism and contemporary nationalist fronts
 > such as IRA, PLO, ANC, etc. even though none of those particular
 > organizations was ever directly connected to the Third International.
 > Many leftists have been convinced that nationalist fronts represent the
 > "progressive forces" whose victory would help to weaken imperialism (and
 > presumably capitalism too). This position was heavily influenced by the
 > ideology of the Soviet leadership from the days of the Comintern right
 > through post-Stalinist revisionism. Now that the USSR is no longer around
 > and the regional conflicts bequeathed by British or other Western
 > colonialism in Ireland, Palestine, S. Africa etc. are approaching a kind
 > of "resolution" (in the sense that the nationalist opponents of
 > imperialism have been, or look like they might be, granted a share of the
 > franchise), it can be seen how limited and inadequate their version of
 > "progress" really is. With their own flags, postage stamps, police, and
 > standing armies, these forces of "liberation" will now help to enforce the
 > New World Order. Capitalism doesn't need official policies of racism to
 > survive; in fact, it functions better without them. Energies that could
 > have gone toward destroying capitalism altogether in its totality have for
 > decades been channeled instead into campaigns to defeat particular archaic
 > features of it. I don't mean to belittle those who struggled and died or
 > spent time in jail fighting against apartheid, but now that the ANC is in
 > power, it should be clear to everyone that it poses no threat whatsoever
 > to the reign of capital. In order for the ANC to govern, it must say to
 > its constituents, "OK, we won. The revolution is over now. Everybody get
 > back to work." Are there powerful trade unions in S. Africa?
 > Wonderful--they can now pacify and control the working class just like
 > trade unions everywhere else. Their function will be no different than
 > that of the AFL-CIO or the British TUC. The new S. Africa still must go
 > along with the demands of global capital, and if the workers in S. Africa
 > fail to go along, then the new functionaries of the state apparatus, who
 > happen to be the ANC, will discipline them.
 >
 > As for the PLO, we've already seen its police open fire on Palestinians.
 >
 > --AT
 >
 >
 >      --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---
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