Populism

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Fri Feb 17 11:45:27 MST 1995


On Fri, 17 Feb 1995, Christopher A Fons wrote:

> ... For example could not the reasoning follow that because the
> Zapatistas are fighting primarily for land for petty producers should we
> support agra-buisnesses that revolutionize production and eliminate the
> reactionary peasantry or because NAFTA is going to crush the fuedal like
> corpratist Mexican state should we support it?

Louis Proyect:

This question has been around for a long time. Post-colonialists like
Edward Said have criticized Marx's support for the "social revolution"
the English were instituting in the "backward" feudal villages of Hindustan.

If one's model of Marxism is based on a schematic notion of stages that
represent "onwards and upwards" progress throughout history (barbarism,
feudalism, capitalism, socialism), then one can conclude that Marx was
simply cheering on the "progressive" English capitalists struggle against
the benighted Asiatic mode of production. This type of caricature might serve
people like Fukuyama and Alvin Toffler, but it is not essential to Marx's
writings.

I suggest that a more subtle, and more accurate, reading of Marx is not
one based on such schematic approaches. For Marx, capitalism was a
process that destroyed existing traditional social relations--based on
religious, clan and ethnic ties--and replaced them with ones based on the
cash nexus, on exchange value. This process is irreversible. His goal was
not to celebrate it but to analyze it and to offer an alternative that
would better serve humanity: socialism.

In fact, the confrontation between Zedillo and the Zapatistas, the
machinations between the Wall St. banks, Washington and the Mexican
ruling-class is something that appears ripped out of the pages of the
Communist Manifesto. This is something that comrade Chris Burford alluded
to the other day. I suggest that a re-reading of the Communist Manifesto
would be in order for everybody on the list.


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