Ellen Meiksins Wood versus Karl Marx

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Sun Oct 29 21:41:03 MST 2000

"Austin, Andrew" wrote:

> >Very good points, Louis. That's the way I read Marx. What do you >reckon
> >"essential factors" means in Wood's writing if they are not "primary
> >causes"?

Andy, continue reading Marx from Marx himself.

Unlike revisionist Wood and Brenner, Marx hardly sees anything *progressive* in
capitalism and imperialism.

***Marx, _On Imperialism in India_

"All the civil wars, invasions, revolutions, conquests, famines, strangely
complex, rapid and destructive as the successive action in Hindostan, did not go
deeper than its surface. England has broken down the entire framework of Indian
society, without any symptoms of reconstitution yet appearing. This loss of his
old world, with not gain of a new one, imparts a particular kind of melancholy
to the present misery of the Hindoo, and separates Hindostan ruled by Britain,
from all its ancient traditions, and from the whole of its past history"


> Andrew Austin
> Green Bay, WI
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Louis Proyect [mailto:lnp3 at panix.com]
> Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2000 8:08 PM
> To: marxism at lists.panix.com
> Subject: Ellen Meiksins Wood versus Karl Marx
> Ellen Meiksins Wood, "Origins of Capitalism", p. 101:
> "Trade and empire, then were essential factors in the development of
> industrial capitalism, but they cannot be treated as primary causes."
> ===
> Karl Marx, Capital V. 1, ch. 31, "The Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist":
> "The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement
> and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the
> conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a
> warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn
> of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the
> chief momenta of primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the
> commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre. It
> begins with the revolt of the Netherlands from Spain, assumes giant
> dimensions in England's Anti-Jacobin War, and is still going on in the
> opium wars against China, &c.
> "The different momenta of primitive accumulation distribute themselves now,
> more or less in chronological order, particularly over Spain, Portugal,
> Holland, France, and England. In England at the end of the 17th century,
> they arrive at a systematical combination, embracing the colonies, the
> national debt, the modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system.
> These methods depend in part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system.
> But, they all employ the power of the State, the concentrated and organised
> force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of
> transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode,
> and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society
> pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power."
> ===
> I would add that Karl Marx does write about the changes taking place in the
> 15th century English countryside in some detail. They are covered in
> chapter 29, the Genesis of the Capitalist Farmer. Anybody who reads these
> chapters comes away with the understanding that the changes in the
> countryside, so crucial to Brenner, were preconditions for the formation of
> agrarian capitalists. In chapter 31, there is absolutely no importance
> given to changes in relationships between peasant and lord. What Brenner
> has done is alter the causality in explaining the rise of industrial
> capitalism. Instead of paying attention to the phenomena Marx deemed
> important--slavery and colonialism, they place complete emphasis on
> INTERNAL changes in the British countryside.
> In other words, they are revising Marx.
> Now, it is not necessarily such a bad thing to revise Marx. His theory of
> the Asiatic Mode of Production required modification. But what Brenner did
> was of a completely different nature. It removed the claws from the Marxist
> analysis and made it palatable to an academic milieu that did not want to
> hear about slavery, colonialism and imperialism. When Brenner wrote his
> 1977 New Left Review article attacking Paul Sweezy and company, it was part
> of a shift taking place at the journal. The petty-bourgeois careerists at
> the magazine no longer had mass demonstrations to speak at on behalf of
> third world movements. As Tariq Ali said to a NYC audience last year, this
> was around the time he had decided to put revolutionary politics on the
> back burner. People like Ali who had made their reputation as Trotskyists
> on the front lines defending the colonial revolution now turned their
> attention to academia and cushy jobs in television and newspapers.
> This tendency has only deepened since 1977 and the magazine, upon whose
> editorial board Robert Brenner sits, just announced to the world that the
> project of proletarian revolution was finished. Brenner and Perry Anderson,
> a co-editor at NLR, are profs at UCLA where they organize high-falutin'
> conferences under the auspices of the think-tank he runs there. When a
> trade unionist approached Brenner to write a forward for a book, Brenner
> made himself unavailable.
> Brenner will never be seen hurling rocks at Israeli border guards like
> Edward Said or organizing conferences on genocide on Indian reservations
> like Jim Craven. His antagonist Jim Blaut has had a proud record as a
> militant with the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. So I enjoyed seeing Jim
> nail Brenner's ass to the floor in his summary: "Euro-Marxism no longer
> needs Brenner's theory, because Euro-Marxism no longer worries much about
> the Third World. Euro-Marxism is not entirely sure that the Third World
> exists. It is not entirely sure that anything exists." This of course is a
> reference to the NLR's turn toward post-modernish Marxism around the time
> Brenner was giving Paul Sweezy a C+ on his Marxism 101 report card. No more
> would you see embarrassing calls for solidarity with third world
> guerrillas; the "grown up" radicals at the NLR would much prefer to discuss
> Sartre than Sandino.
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/


Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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