Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Jim F.)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Oct 22 14:59:53 MDT 2000


In response to part of my post on the failures of the CP-USA, Jim Farmelant
asked,

"Would you say that this sort of exceptionalism is characteristic of
settler states in general including not only the US but also South Africa
and Israel?  In apartheid South Africa a similar "united front" existed
between white capitalists and white workers & farmers, all of whom had an
objective material stake in the displacement of native blacks from their
lands and in their subsequent exploitation by whites.  And likewise in
Israel there has long existed a united front between the Jewish bourgeoisie
and the Jewish working class there.  Both classes have a material stake in
the displacement and subordination of the Palestinians. (Too the extent
that this is the case then the sloganeering by Trots and other leftists
that Jewish and Arab workers should form a united front would seem be
rather pointless)."

I would say that this kind of "exceptionalism" really isn’t exceptionalism
in a historic sense. It is only exceptionalism when compared to the most
commonly held ideas of Marxism about class formation and relations in
capitalist societies.

The formation of what I only half-jokingly referred to as the "popular
front for imperialism" is present to one extent or another, in all
countries in which the historic formation of the working class occurred
during a period of territorial conquest and expansion.

But especially during a period of conquest and colonization.

And most especially in the working class formed by colonists in a country
being conquered and colonized.

In my view this applies to the working classes of England - which was in
the process of conquering Ireland, and later the world as its working class
was being formed. Colonization of Northern Ireland, the American colonies,
South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand - (to a much lesser extent the
Asian colonies) was central in the formation of class relations in England
as capitalism was forming.

The "colonial" working classes were tied together in class unity against
those they were conquering. The most virulent example being the Protestant
workers of Northern Ireland.

(A fact that I think was underrated or not understood by Marx, Engels,
Kautsky, et.al. when they talked of the "exceptional" case of pure
capitalism in England. It wasn’t exceptional, and it wasn’t very pure. I
think Engels discussion of the labor aristocracy in England may point in
the direction I am talking about, as may Marx and Engels articles about
Ireland, but I haven’t read either for over 20 years.)

In my view it also applies to France, but less than England. Colonization
was not the central pillar of empire for France that it was for England.
Nevertheless the French working class was formed as France was building an
oversees Empire before and after the revolution - and as it failed to build
a continental empire after the revolution.

This process also applies to Germany, but still less so. German unification
was not carried out by democratic revolution - but by dynastic empire
builders who wanted to build both a continental empire and an overseas
empire. They partially succeeded at both which is why they had to fight
W.W.I. Their partial success benefited German workers materially - and if
they had succeeded in W.W.I against the UK, USA, and France, German workers
would have benefited materially from that victory.

This is the most fundamental explanation of why the great majority of
German social democrats voted war credits and supported their "fatherland"
in W.W.I.

Holland, Belgium and Italy are special cases where the same dynamic was at
work - but in different ways.

Spain and Portugal are in a different class - because their pre-capitalist
empires had been, or were being, stripped away by Holland, England, France,
the USA - and the independence movements- when the formation of their
working classes occurred. (And Portugal’s retention of an important part of
her empire sets her apart from Spain.)

As for Israel and South Africa. Absolutely.

Also Australia and New Zealand. Absolutely.

Also Argentina. But Argentina is a really exceptional variant. Argentina
carried out a prolonged genocidal war against the native American societies
after independence from Spain. Its working class was formed mostly from
immigrants from Europe, but primarily in the wake of that war - not
simultaneously.

Finally a word about your use of the expression ‘united front’. For me the
expressions ‘united front’ and ‘popular front’ refer to very specific
political categories. The first is a formal political agreement - electoral
and/or extraelectoral - between working class political parties - for
example a communist party and a social democratic party. This tactic was
central to the policy of the Third International after it reoriented itself
around 1919/20 until 1927.

The Popular Front is formal political agreement - electoral and/or
extraelectoral - between working class and bourgeois political parties.
This tactic was announced by Dmitrov and Stalin when their disastrous
"third period polices" led to the Nazis achieving power in Germany. The
Communist Parties of Europe and elsewhere implemented the Popular Front
beginning in 1934, and never really wavered from it thereafter. The most
spectacular disasters of this policy were the Popular Fronts in Spain and
France which could not successfully combat Fascism.

When I used the term "popular front" I was using it loosely, and in a
halfway unserious manner. I was not talking about formal political
agreements between parties, but deep social and social psychological class
relations - expressed at the level of political party formation and
program. I used the term "popular front" not "united front" because I was
trying to express the unity of the working class of the USA with the
bourgeois classes in favor of imperialism.

Anthony


Louis Proyect
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