Fwd [GLW}: No solution can come from elite, meeting told

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Sun Aug 13 12:04:53 MDT 2000

Norman Mikalac wrote:

> "These actions could not possibly happen in the world as it now is --
> and a world in which they could happen would be a profoundly different
> world than the world we currently experience.."
> i don't see why my assumptions considering the present world order are
> more unrealistic than those supposing a changed world order in the above
> quote.

Let's see if I can make it clear. In your original post you wrote: "let's suppose that
we cancel all LDC debts and abolish the IMF and WB (WTO too?)"

Several questions:

    1. Why would "we" *do* that?

    2. But of course "we" (i.e., marxists and other progressives) don't have the power
to do it, so it is silly to ask what would happen if "we" did it. (This *is* a marxist
list -- and while I argue with non-marxists on other lists, I only argue with marxists
on this list. If you're *not* a marxist, forget it, this post is not relevant to your
concerns.) So the correct question is

        Why would *they* do this. ("They" is the U.S. ruling class, which is the only
power in the world, under present conditions, which could decide to cancel debts, etc.
In what follows IMF is shorthand for that whole huge complex of social relations which
constitute the present world order centered on the U.S. ruling class.)

    And the answer to this question is that the IMF would cancel debts, etc. *only* if
it was forced to by superior force. But of course no such superior force exists at the
present time. So the question comes back to "us," only now the question is not whether
"we" should cancel debts, etc. but how "we" can mobilize the immense forces necessary
to destroy the IMF or at least to threaten such destruction. (That "or at least"
contains the whole dynamic of the inter-relationships between "reform and revolution.")

    And the questions you raise are silly because what you talk about, a voluntary
suicide by the IMF,  exists only in some utopian never-never land.


P.S. Some wider matters. What we are dealing with here, at a most fundamental level, is
the profound difference in the relationship of thought and action, present and future,
between on the one hand capitalism and on the other hand either pre-capitalist or
post-capitalist social orders (or modes of production). Others on the list possess a
greater width and depth of philosophical and historical knowledge than I, but perhaps I
can give a rough indication of what is at issue.

    Roughly, under pre-capitalism modes of production there is a more or less direct
(and visible) relationship between act and motive, and hence between present and
future, while capitalism breaks those direct relationships. (Looking *back* "we" can
see that there was always a gap between act and motive, but that fact leads us to
subtleties not relevant here.) In a pre-capitalist MP (mode of production) if I
(actually "we," "I" being always a manifestation of a we in such socities) -- if I
wished to eat bread I engaged in a series of actions the meaning of which was always
implicit and visible in the action. I planted wheat. I harvested it. I ground it. I
baked it. And I ate the bread. The fascist poet Ezra Pound (who wished to achieve
non-capitalist ends while still keeping capitalism) found a marvellous expression of
this in an ancient language and translated it as follows:

                            Sun up; work
                            sundown; to rest
                            dig well and drink of the water
                            dig field; eat of the grain
                            Imperial power is? and to us what is it?
                                            (Canto XLIX)

But in a capitalist society this unity of motive (desire to eat bread) and action (the
productin of bread) is broken. Note that in the process Pound recalls the action by
which the motive is fulfilled does *not* change the world. The world is exactly the
same after one digs the field and eats of the grain. (The Imperial power skims some
from the top but that does not change the essential nature of the action, the direct
and visible relationship between act and motive, present and future.) Another way of
putting it is, under such conditions of production for use, *if* an action is
successful, *then* its motive is *always* realized. Many things can interfere with the
complex action of digging the field and producing the grain, but if that action
succeeds its motive (eating of the grain) is realized. The future is visible.

Now an experience of mine over 30 years before I became a marxist can offer the
necessary contrast here. My grandfather was a fruit farmer in southwestern Michigan.
Back in 1939 he raised the largest crop of strawberries in his life. And one June day
my uncle carried 300 crates of strawberries to the local wholesale market in Benton
Harbor. Five hours later he came home with those 300 crates, which they dumped to the
hogs in order to preserve the packaging for use the next day. The highest bid he had
gotten for the strawberries was 7 cents a crate less than the cost of the package. (The
year before his "action," raising strawberries, had mostly failed because the crop
froze -- but what berries he did have sold for $6 a crate rather than 15 cents.) In
1939 my grandfather *failed* to realize his motive in planting strawberries just
*because* he (and many other farmers) was so successful in the act itself. That is, by
planting the strawberries, raising them, and harvesting them he CHANGED the world --
and in the new world resulting from that action the action itself had a different
meaning than when he performed it. (We had lots of berries to eat that June, but that
didn't help with buying bread for the next year.)

    Under production for use, the future is *visible* in, is materially present in, the
present action. Under capitalism (and this is to a lesser extent true of pre-capitalist
formations in which there has been some market development) the present is, in itself,
meaningless. One does not know when one plants the berries what the meaning of that
action will be. Moreover, nothing one does oneself can affect that meaning, which is
determined behind one's back by the actions of millions -- billions -- of others (all
of whom are strangers).

        This post is long enough.

More information about the Marxism mailing list