replying to Ivonaldo was Re: Hobsbawm and the Analitic History

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky Gorojovsky at SPAMarnet.com.ar
Sat Aug 5 08:42:48 MDT 2000


En relación a Re: replying to Ivonaldo was Re: Hobsbawm and  th,
el 5 Aug 00, a las 14:01, mmcdon dijo:

[Quoting Gary McL. first]

.  We are always on the side of Spartacus. We seek a
> > non-capitalist modernity.  We do not advocate primitive accumulation
> > as a way of dealing with peasants.
>
> Nor though, should we advocated the continued status of "peasant" as a
> way of dealing with a doomed class.

This is not at all the way to put this issue.  Who is "dooming" the
class should be the first question.

If doom befalls from the development of the forces of production of
the very social structure that the peasants make part of, then it is
in a very important sense a product of the historic toil of the
peasants themselves. But if it falls on peasants as Plymouth Rock
fell on Indians and Black people in the USA (on the Blacks, even
before they had arrived there massively if at all, we are talking
history not chronology), then it is a very different thing.

"Peasants" (and "primitives" in general)  have all the human and
political right to fight back this kind of "modernization". And they
certainly do. What is their first reaction? Justly enough, to defend
what they have already achieved by themselves, during the times they
could be the doers of their own history (as you can see, I am not
alien even to Hobsbawm's terminology...) Of course, representatives
of the colonizer will always decry this as an act of atavic barbarism
and a matter of backwardness.

But we Marxists cannot forget that this "backwardness" is progressive
against the ULTIMATE FORM of backwardness represented by the attempt
to force people not to do their own history on their own, but under
the uncontested rule of another (not too worthy, which makes things
worse yet but does not close the issue, it would be the same if a
"socialist" state assumed that position), social formation.

And, on the name of whom is Brian Cahill dooming whole social
classes? On the name of a linear conception of history, where
barbarism precedes "oriental despotism", this precedes slavery,
slavery gives way to feudalism, and feudalism gives way to modern
capitalism? This is a very important fraction of human history and
experience, of course. It is the experience of Western Europe, and
through the offices of capitalism it has become part of the
experience of humankind as a whole. But this experience does not take
into account that it has been forcefully imposed on most of the
planet by conquest and forcible incorporation to a system that had
already been set up elsewhere, while Western Europe delivered modern
capitalism from within its womb by herself (Jim Blaut, by the way,
has a strong case in favour of the idea that there were many other
candidates to take Western Europe's stead, only that the latter was
lucky enough to have America handy).

So, while in, say, England, the doom of the peasant spelt the rise of
capitalism in its modern form,  with industrialism and the full
operation of exchange between Sections I and II of the economy, with
Newton and Locke and Dickens and Eliot and Hogart, in the rest of the
planet the doom of the peasant (or the class that took its stead: in
the Lower Plata Basin, for example, it was not exactly peasants but
free roaming -eventually proletarians for short time- gauchos who
were destroyed by imperialism and turned into an underclass for
decades) meant nothing like that.

It meant, on the contrary, the hemming in of the possibilities of
development of their societies into a cemetery of social projects,
into extroverted societies which were bred dry of value and were
intoxicated with material and spiritual imports.

I feel, however, that there is deeper than a misunderstanding in
Brian's opinion. There is a lack of confidence in the capacities of
subjected peoples to resist imperialism. This turns apparent in his
last sentence, which reads:

. As for "the full panopoly of Imerialistic
> oppression", if such had really been "let loose" "the People" (by
> which I take it you mean "the Catholics") would no longer be in
> Northern Ireland at all.

I will not intrude in a debate between Irish Marxists (since I know
not few Irish Argentineans, I understand it is as dangerous as
putting one's head on the reils of an approaching TGV!), but I will
take the part that concerns me directly. So that if "imperialism lets
loose its full panoply of oppression" a colonized people is
inevitably doomed? Please, Brian, take into account that this
question cannot be answered by saying "no, I am talking of Northern
Ireland's Catholics", because this would imply that poor Northern
Ireland Catholics are somehow or other inferior to other oppressed
peoples. Please answer the basic question:  can an oppressed people
defeat its oppressors, even if against its "full panoply of
oppression", or it must wait for the oppressed classes within the
opressing nation to revolt against their masters?

You see, the habits of mind of the bourgeoisie have a strong tendency
to intrude into our own mental processes without even our noticing
that. I am afraid that this has been your case, but of course I may
be wrong (which I hope).



Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar





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