The problem with moral indignation

Russell Grinker grinker at
Mon Dec 6 12:00:53 MST 1999

Mick Hume wrote:

>>At the start of the twentieth
century anti-capitalists wanted to go beyond the best that the market
economy could offer to build on the achievements of capitalism and raise
productivity further.<<

Jose G. Perez wrote:
This is such a liberal, pious falsification of Marxism it makes one want to

Seems one L Trotsky didn't agree.  He wrote:
Entering upon the socialist revolution as "the weakest link in the
capitalist chain" (Lenin), the former empire of the tzars is even now, in
the nineteenth year after the revolution, still confronted with the task of
"catching up with and outstripping" - consequently in the first place
catching up with - Europe and America.  She has, that is, to solve those
problems of technique and productivity which were long ago solved by
capitalism in the advanced countries. [Leon Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed,

Nice to read him paraphrased in the Times of London in December 1999.

>>By contrast, the Seattle protesters' basic complaint
was that capitalism has gone too far, too fast, and that economic growth
should be reined in. <<

>This is the kind of statement only someone whose world is limited to the
furthest reaches of the London tube could make. To talk about "economic
growth" in a world that includes Africa and Latin America is a cruel joke.

And I suppose to ignore the realities of the richest economies in the world
and what it takes to develop a left political project there is just plain
irrelevant?  Being politically relevant in Europe or America is not just
about moral indignation over what imperialism has done to Africa and Latin
America.  It also implies getting to grips with the real conditions in the
country in which one lives.

>>One does not need to be a fan of the WTO to see that
developing nations need to develop, and that the alternative on offer from
these backward-looking anti-capitalists is even worse than that which they

>But one does need to be a fan of imperialism to say that "developing
need to develop," as if the lack of development were an accident of nature.

Please explain how the one thing implies the other.  From where I sit in the
most backward province in South Africa, nobody would disagree that we
urgently "need to develop"  - supplies of clean water, electricity, roads,
decent housing and a modern industrial base.  We also know that this area is
the way it is because it was used as a dumping ground for surplus labour and
was granted phoney independence to absolve the apartheid regime of
responsibility for social provision - not because of some accident of
nature.  Maybe things look different to you in the US and we should just
sustain ourselves using current resources so as not to upset the balance of
nature or perhaps wait for nationalisation of the commanding heights of the
economy or even the proletarian dictatorship as suggested by Lou Proyect in
another post?

A slightly more critical and analytical attitude towards the Seattle events
wouldn't go amiss.  Stuck out here on the periphery, we wouldn't mind
getting an accurate idea of whether there is any genuine threat to US
hegemony "at home".  From what I've read on various lists and seen so far on
TV, I'm not holding my breath.  Mick Hume's rather jaundiced view of the
whole business unfortunately seems all too realistic.


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