Were sugar plantations capitalist?

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Wed Oct 13 09:28:18 MDT 1999

>>>> James Farmelant <farmelantj at juno.com> 10/12/99 08:18PM >>>
>Charles: It always seems to me that "Analytical Marxists" are
>consciously anti-dialectical. Otherwise I don't see why they add the
>modifier "analytical" to Marxist. It is as if they think Marx was not
>analytical or rigorous. Marxism is already  analytical.

I would be hesiatant about asserting that as a blanket statement.
Cohen would I think say that he recognizes the validity of the
historical dialectic.  In his interpretation of historical materialism,
history is seen as being driven by a forces-relations dialectic and
a base-superstructure dialectic.  To that extent his thought is
dialectical.  On the other hand, Cohen clearly rejects diamat.
In his book *Self-ownership, Freedom, and Equality* he says
that growing up he had learned about diamat but came to
reject it when he was pursuing graduate studies in philosophy
at Oxford in favor of the analytical philosophy that was taught
there (Cohen studied under Gilbert Ryle, author of *The Concept
of Mind*, a leading figure in British philosophy under whom
generations of anglophone philosophers did their dissertations,
people ranging from A.J. Ayer to Daniel Dennett).

I am not sure what role if any dialectics would play in the Marxisms
of other AMs like Jon Elster. Their work seems to be avowedly
antidialectical. On the other hand, Justin Schwartz
said there were some AM's (including himself) who were
more sympathetic to Hegelianism.  Analytical philosophy which
began at the beginning of this centrury as a more or less overtly
anti-Hegelian movement has itself over the years come to
accomodate certain types of Hegelian ideas and themes
as in the Duhemian holism of W.V. Quine or the evolutionism
of Karl Popper's later thought.  One leading analytical philosopher
Wilfrid Sellars was an admirer of Engels.


Charles: Thanks for this history. However, in a "non-blanket" sense , it tends to
confirm my impression. As you say, analytical philosphy bgan as specficially
anti-Hegelian, whom everbody seems to label a main founder of modern dialectical
philosophy.  I recall when we discussed this with Justin and Jim Heartfield here,
there was mention that Bertrand Russell explicitly rejected dialectics. Though Popper
had evolutionism in later thought, he crticized Hegel as a historicist.  Again the
name "Analytical Marxism" is telling. Who are the non-analytical Marxists that they
are trying to distinguish themselves from ? ( I mean besides Lenin, who just about
everybody in that milieu wants to distinguish themselves from). Sometimes it sounds
like they are just saying they are "sharper" or more rigorous than some other sloppy
or run of the mill Marxists; and by "sharper" they mean they are experts at FORMAL
logic, Frege and all of that.

>Charles: This seems alright, except it seems already implicit in Marx
>and Engels that they estimated that the capitalist mode had or would
>win out in this competition.  I take Marx and Engels to say this
>without the connotation that capitalism is morally superior, but
>materially dominant of the other modes. Also, it seemed to be clear to
>Marx and Engels that capitalism was able to incorporate a prior mode,
>slavery, within capitalism.

Well, Carling would agree that capitalism's victory over feudalism
was inevitable over the long term but he seems to leave room
in his scheme for contingency in terms of where and when
this victory would occur.  As I recall, he formulated his argument
on this in probabilistic terms.


Charles: This does not seem to differ from M and E in principle. At first they seemed
to think of the "advanced countries" . Then at the end of his life, Marx was focussed
on. of all places, Russia, as Lou has said, and I read someplace else lately. Where do
Carling's probabilities come out ?

>Charles: Somehow Carling seems like Marx. Are all of these people
>claiming to discover something new and important not in Marx ?

I think they are all claiming to be elucidating ideas that were
already stated in or implicit in Marx's writings.  Marx after
all over the years approached some of these issues from
different angles, sometimes emphasizing one set of factors,
other times emphasizing other factors.


Charles: Yes, as above on where socialism first.

>> I plan to get my hands on this article and discuss it
>>briefly in
>>my final installment on Brenner. Right now, from what I've seen of
>>Cohen and Brenner, there ARE strong affinities. Both have a
>>tendency toward "stagism". In Cohen's case, it is stated upfront.
>I would be inerested in finding more about Brenner's political
>background and its relations to his positions on issues like
>"stagism."  Cohen in any case came by his "stagism" rather
>naturally since his family background was Stalinist.  His mother
>was a member of the Communist Party of Canada, his father
>who was less overtly political, was a member of a Jewish fraternal
>organization that was closely aligned with the Party.  His mother
>dropped out of the Party around 1956 when the Party collapsed
>into chaos following Khruschev's famous de-Stalinization speech.
>Cohen in his *Karl Marx's Theory of History* rather explicitly
>followed Plekhanov (and presumably Kautsky as well) in his
>interpretation of Marx's materialist conception of history.
>His "stagism" there was directly derived from these Second
>International theorists.
>Charles: I am not sure the Canadian CP is stagist. Dialectics is
>emphasized in most pro-Moscow parties. Kautsky is criticized a la
>Lenin by Third International derived parties. "Stages" are understood
>dialectically, a la Engels' _The Dialectics of Nature_.  Combined and
>uneven development is a party phrase.

Cohen early on abandoned the diamat of the communist parties
but a strong case could be made that stagisms in one form or
another were prevalent in the pro-Moscow parties.  It is certainly
true that Lenin had criticized Kautsky (and Plekanov) in asserting
the existence of combined and uneven development but in
practice the Stalinist parties often tended to argue for the
necessity of underdeveloped countries of undergoing periods
of capitalist development before they could hope to move on to

Charles: Yes, this point is undeniable. I guess I posed the opposition
stagist/dialectical, but I don't know if that is what Lou opposes to "stagist".

On the other hand, it seems that Marx and Engels thought that some development of
capitalist relations of production, especially a proletariat , is a premise for
socialism. And , even more, historical events seem so confirm this necessity some.
China's road to socialism bypassing capitalism ( which I am not sure whether this was
derived from Moscow or independently) has been seriously detoured by reality.

I guess I wonder whether this idea is not so much a mechanical conception as a
realistic conception that the development of socialism in all of these countries in
this period is in a world of imperialism with the imperialists very seriously ( and
now successfully) trying to prevent the development of socialism. Thus, only with a
significant amount of material development can or could these countries have defended
themselves from counterrevolution.

Even the failure of the Soviet Union must in part be attributed to its very limited
capitalist development at the time of the Russian Revolution.

So, in doesn't the empirical record, when we consider both individual countries
internally, but also necessarily, the world system in which no country develops
independently,  seem to confirm the Stalinist parties general claim on this issue ?


 Stalinists especially during the Popular Front period
often drew distinctions between "progressive" and "reactionary"
sectors of the bourgeoisie.  Political alliances were often sought
with the former against the latter.

Charles: I think divide and conquer the bourgeoisie is a Marxist approach. I am not
sure that history has proven this an erroneous strategy. Nazism was defeated. And
almost the entire paleo-colonial world had successful national liberations, many of
which were on self-proclaimed roads to socialism. The failing seems to have been to
revolution in Western Europe and America; and the latter gangstering the rest of the
world off of the socialist courses. Don't see how the primary blame for this lies with
Moscow.  As to the CP's in the U.S. and Western Europe, I don't see alliances with
"progressive" bourgeoisie as a general line.  But I know mainly the U.S. There was
effort at accomodation with the opportunist center in the trade unions, but not
alliance with big bourgeoisie.


 In Latin American for instance
this sometimes had some rather odd results.  In Nicaragua, the
Communists for a number of years backed the Somozas on such
grounds while the Cuban Communists backed Batista for some

Charles: I am not sure this was based on the full idea of necessity of going through
some capitalism as a premise for socialism. It may be an aspect of this in that it
probable resulted from those CP's focusing on proletarians over peasant sectors.  I
think also it was more a dogmatic application of Lenin's arguments against terrorism.
But in the larger picture, Moscow supported the revolutionary wars in China and Viet
Nam, so, I don't know that the inference of a general , Moscow , stagist error
implying no support for peasant dominated revolutions fits the facts.

>> My
>>webpage has an article on this if anybody's interested. With Brenner
>>get much of the same thing with respect to the problem of transition.
>>seems incapable of understanding what Trotsky referred to as
>>uneven development".
>Which of course respresents a break with the understandings of
>historical materialism prevalent within the Second International
>(and for that matter the Third International).
>Charles: Don't think so. "Combined and uneven development" is termed a
>central Leninist concept within Third Internationalists formations and

But their political practice was often more in line with the
ideas of the Second International.


Charles: What about support for revolutionary wars in China, Viet Nam, Korea, etc.  ?
This was not Kautskyism .


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