Foster on Hardt-Negri

Greg Schofield g_schofield at dingoblue.net.au
Tue Dec 4 18:47:22 MST 2001


LOUIS: "Have you read Hardt and Negri's "Empire"? It is a vile piece of 
reformist trash. Although I am no expert on Meszaros, he has to be an 
improvement."

Alas only the second half, the first half was too much for me (my tolerance of post-modernist discourse is rated in seconds). However, Lenin had no problem in scanning a rich variety of bourgeois and reformist theories in order to pull together his concept of Imperialism and I think we should take a feather out of his cap on this. Vile may well be the appropriate tag for much of Empire, but there are some points which will not easily go away.

The conceptualisation of the idea might be foul, but the idea's relation to historical reality is the important question.

Meszaros seems (I have only read the review) to concentrate on the the historical role of the US, while Empire glides along at a level of abstraction not necessarily all that illuminating. In the review Foster seems to want to comapre apples to organges, a historical account as against a theoretical tour. When Negri and Hardt are good is that occassionally they hit on a vital point and this cannot be dismissed, I was especially suprised to find that they had hit on a point which I had raised on this list previously - in fact I was put in a state of shock when I found this to be the case (there is nothing in common between their approach and mine but we end up making the same specific point - which tends to say to my mind that this reflects something of an external reality).

Below is a quote from Empire which I do not believe can be easily dismissed (Part 3, Chapter 3.1, p231):

"Lenin agreed with Kautsky's basic thesis that there is a trend in capitalist development toward the international cooperation of the various national finance capitals and possibly toward the construction of a single world trust. What he objected to so strongly was the fact that Kautsky used this vision of a peaceful future to negate the dynamics of the present reality; Lenin thus dnounced his ``profoundy reactionary dsire to blunt the contradctions'' of the present situation. Rather than waiting for some peaceful ultraý imperialism to arrive in the future, revolutionaries should act now on the contradctions posed by capital's present imperialist organization. Thus, while generally adpting these authors' analytical propoýsitions, Lenin rejected their political positions."

Not just this small quote but the entire chapter and much of Part 3 of Empire, its most important for us, seems to have been overlooked. There are very important political and theoretical implications in this. Having not read Meszaros I can only go on the review article as being a fair summation, if it is we are really seeing a trend towards the same conlcusions taking place within vastly different approaches and traditions. Foster says that much in Empire has been welcomed by the bourgeoisie, and no-doubt this is true, but it was just as true for the very sources that Lenin used, the point not being whom the work appeals, but to the extent the work reflects something of importance that exists in reality.

Louis, I hope this might open up more wide ranging discussion, rather than simply criticising people like Negri and Hardt for not being what they are not, and instead address the contradictions of our times with whatever resources we can muster even if clothed in the guady rags of psot-modernism.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia



--- Message Received ---
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 20:07:46 -0500
Subject: Re: Foster on Hardt-Negri

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